This is a follow up story for Kanga. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
What’s up, ladies & gents!
My name’s Teddy Giard and I’m the Co-founder & Head of Brand Marketing/Media for Kanga Coolers. Kanga was started as a class project at Clemson University back in 2017 where we were asked to create a solution to a problem we faced every day. In our case, the problem hand was warm beer.
Naturally, as a group of ambitious college students, we noticed that warm beer was a serious problem sweeping the nation. On a traditional Saturday afternoon, it was not uncommon to see multiple individuals carrying a case of beer or soda to any social gathering while the case itself baked in the hot sun all day. We realized that individuals were using koozies to insulate their beverages but failing to keep their entire case cold throughout the day. This lead to developing the Kanga Kase Mate, a patented multilayer sleeve intended to keep your entire case of beverages cold the entire time you’re going to consume them.
Since this groundbreaking discovery, the team successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign in 2018 and received national recognition upon our Shark Tank appearance in 2019, securing the approval of all 5 judges and a $100K handshake with Mark Cuban. Currently, our team has moved around office spaces in upstate South Carolina and happily call Greenville SC our new home.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since our last write up with Starter Story we have continued to expand across the country. With any startup, there’s always an aspect of growth to talk about but for the sake of everyone’s time, we’ll touch on some overall highlights.
The Kanga Team has expanded to a team of 10 individuals with everyone on the team having graduated from college and officially working full time. With school on the back burner and new office space we’ve found ourselves finally operating at a level we’ve been talking about for years!
Launching The Kanga Exclusives Program:
This past month we’ve officially launched the Kanga exclusives program where we partner with like-minded brands to create a fully customized cross branded cooler. Having only launched 2 weeks ago we already sold out of every cooler brought to the program and have continued expanding on other brand relationships.
Some honorable mentions from our last exclusives program are Friday Beers, High Noon, Criquet Shirts, and HUK Gear!
You Can Checkout Our Exclusives Page Here.
One aspect of our company that we believe separates us from other competitors is our ability to create content that reaches users and grows organically. Since our last article, we’ve nearly doubled our audiences on all social media platforms and seen an even bigger spike in engagement.
Our biggest advantage this year was jumping on Tik Tok early. I’ve attached the analytics below as the numbers speak for themselves. Every month, we are reaching nearly 9 million users organically. THIS MEANS WE ARE NOT PAYING FOR THIS WEB TRAFFIC! Tik Tok as a whole has allowed us to reach a whole new demographic that will slowly grow into our target audience. This advantage has not only allowed us to segment a majority of our social channels to appeal to their core audiences but has allowed us to leverage our ability to organically speak to potential customers and grow our brand as a whole.
New Advertising Strategies:
From our early stages, we’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to deliver engaging content across all of our social channels. That being the case, we learned that engaging content doesn’t always mean it’s converting content. We recently brought on a new advertising firm to help us grow and continue pinpointing target demographics so we can deliver content that is not only tailored to our end consumers but also incentivizes them to follow us on our social channels to stay top of mind and interact with our online sales funnels.
Marketing as a whole is such a broad spectrum where, unfortunately, many aspects are left out when researching/studying the field. As we’ve continued to grow we’ve continued to find gaps that needed to be fulfilled. The idea of outsourced marketing firms was always a scary one for us as our first experience with a firm was underwhelming, to say the least. Ultimately we came to the realization that data speaks for itself and it’s unrealistic to effectively do EVERYTHING in the house. Having an outside perspective on what you’re offering is crucial. At the end of the day, nobody understands the brand like you do, internally, as your perception of your business is always 6 months to a year down the road from what’s being released to the public. Having a trusted group of individuals looking in from the outside is crucial as it’s much easier to pinpoint potential problems or forms of miscommunication when you’re not seeing/interacting with a product every single day.
Taking this leap and finding marketing firms that not only have data to back up their claims but are also bought into your companies’ growth and incentivized through royalty structures has been our most effective means of bringing on new talent. This may not be a textbook answer, but we don’t read textbooks… they’re 2 - 4 years outdated anyways! Learn by doing, it’s the fastest process.
Awards & PR:
Just recently we were awarded the FedEx small business loan where Kanga was acknowledged as one of the fastest-growing consumer product brands in the United States. This was not only fantastic from a PR standpoint but also allowed us to free up some extra cash to put towards our new inventory and operations side of the business.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
This year we learned how to work through adversity and also the importance of controllable growth. Recently we’ve seen an overwhelming demand for our coolers which has led to recurring sellouts (This has been a blessing during COVID and can speak for the increase in both alcohol sales and consumption). I know, it sounds crazy to state selling out of your product is a problem… that being the case we learned the importance of continuously having inventory on hand and optimizing every purchase.
Don’t be afraid to speak on behalf of your business or brand but be conscious as to how you speak on behalf of yourself. If becoming an entrepreneur is a dream of yours, let that title be given to you, don’t give it to yourself.
When you’re a relatively new business/brand it’s crucial to get your products in the hands of consumers who are passionate about what you stand for and ultimately are proud to own your products. Through proper advertising and funnels that convert we’ve been able to sell out of all of our inventory yet realized we were offering incentives that didn’t need to be offered as the demand for our product already existed. All in all, this was affecting our margins and leaving us in dry periods with any empty warehouse anywhere from 2 - 3 weeks.
This is a great problem to have, that being said it’s also extremely dangerous. What we took away from this was optimizing our advertising funnels to prioritize our spend to attain the best overall profit margin upon the consumers’ final transaction (AOV) not only allowed us to scale at an attainable rate but left us with the most cash in hand and the opportunity to grow our core target audiences.
In conclusion, scaling a business is a requirement to stay alive… yet scaling too fast is a death sentence.
Ask yourself this, What am I paying to obtain customers? What am I profiting from my marketing spend? And ultimately what’s my bottom line revenue? Topline revenue is sexy, the bottom revenue line is the only thing that matters.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
As a group of early 20-year-olds, we’re focused on the journey. We reiterate this almost every day, “it’s about the journey, not the end destination.” Although many will argue this isn’t the proper mindset for running a business, it hasn’t failed us yet. We prioritize the experiences we share, the opportunities we take, and the community we build over everything. At the end of the day, we’re a group of individuals from all different walks of life that share the common belief that life is too short to not be doing something you love every day. Yes in a perfect world Kanga comes out on top one day with a potential VC firm or potential acquisition but our heads aren’t there until the timing is right. We choose to keep our headlights on and rearview mirrors disengaged.
5 years from now, we will see the Kanga brand as a household name bringing a variety of fun and convenient beverage cooling solutions to the market. We want to enhance the end-user experience and allow them to focus on what’s most important in life, through having fun and interacting with the community they surround themselves with. These interactions speak for themselves and ultimately form our brand. At the end of the day, if we’re all having fun and we’re adding more smiling faces to the streets we couldn’t think of a better way to live life.
Again it’s not about the end destination, it’s all about the journey. Who knows where our journey will take us all, that’s in God’s hands and we’re prepared to make the most of whatever opportunities he puts before us.
If you look long and hard at the way COVID has restructured how we work and communicate as a whole you’re kidding yourself if you think things will go back to the way the world operated beforehand. Not saying we won’t ever stop wearing masks in public, at least I hope, but in times of adversity, companies and individuals choose to adapt or become victims of change. With any form of change or adversity comes a gross amount of opportunity. You won’t find this opportunity in a textbook, you have to find it yourself. The people who come out on top will be the people your professors and individuals practicing higher education will talk, research, and teach about one day. Don’t wait for them to tell you about what’s happened and what’s “trending”… be the one to show your peers how you see things and how you create your opportunity. If you wait to hear it from somebody else, it’s too late and society is already moving in a new direction.
Look at any form of change as an opportunity to reposition yourself and create a method of filling in new gaps. You can’t wait for life to “go back to normal” you have to make this new way of life a new normal. You can’t rewrite history because it’s already happened, but you can go down in history for making something happen.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Recently I’ve been reading Extreme Ownership by Jaco Williams. This book was recommended to me by our founder and CEO Logan Lamance. As a 22-year-old heading our Branding and Marketing division I was brought into a position of managing projects and areas of business with individuals my age and in some cases older than me.
In all honesty, this was weird at first. But after reading this book I started to look at leadership as an opportunity to grow with others and ultimately form a high functioning team. My goals completely changed as I started working and optimizing my workflow to not only train new employees but make sure whatever system or projects I lead could easily be replicated and enhanced by other individuals so I could focus my time on growing sides of the business that need the most assistance.
This book is not only applicable to business but also life in general. Leadership is something that’s earned and in many cases earned without knowing it. But as cliche, as it sounds, being a leader, means you have power and when you have the power it also means you have more responsibility. You can be a natural leader, but learning how to become a powerful leader takes time, practice, and in many cases a lot of self-reflection and discipline. In most cases, your ego is what holds you back.
This book changed the way I manage employees and also how I take accountability for not just myself but my team. When we do well on a project, that’s a reflection on my team, not me. When we do poorly on a project, that is solely my responsibility as I am responsible for the outcome of any output made on behalf of my team members. Yes, you need to have the proper team to achieve your end goals, but without proper leadership, a group of individuals is incapable of taking proper action. Living by this day in and day out is stressful, yet it creates a loyal community of co-workers who not only know you’ve got their back but also want to work twice as hard to make sure what’s accomplished exceeds all expectations. Taking accountability for your actions is the key to creating a successful culture both with business and life as a whole.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
If you’re looking to grow a business, start with something that pisses you off. If something pisses you off enough to where you see the need to make a change or improvement, chances are other people are feeling your pain. Right there, you’ve identified your target audience and you may have stumbled upon a business venture.
All in all, being an entrepreneur is the new “cool”, “sexy”, and “prestigious” title to have these days. Do yourself a favor, don’t call yourself an entrepreneur. Let that title be handed to you.
When a peer asks a fellow peer “what you do day in and day out?” What’s your response? Are you quick to pinpoint what you do or is your day to day filled with so many different aspects that no name or title will ever give it justice? Don’t be afraid to speak on behalf of your business or brand but be conscious as to how you speak on behalf of yourself. If becoming an entrepreneur is a dream of yours, let that title be given to you, don’t give it to yourself.
At Kanga, none of us would classify ourselves as “entrepreneurs” because we all believe it’s a title that is achieved and given to you by a third party… we are not that third party. A true entrepreneur isn’t focused on their title, they’re focused on results and building something so extreme and so “out there” that the average dude walking down the street would think you’re a lunatic. Don’t focus on what others think of you. Focus on what you want to build and focus on becoming that best version of yourself. Through pursuing something you believe in, the results, titles, and acknowledgment will come and you will soon realize that what you’re being praised for isn’t even close to what’s around the corner. You see something the world around you doesn’t. Own it, share your business, become that best version of yourself, and let others do the speaking for you.
Think about it this way, if being famous is a quote on quote “cool” how would it come across if you ran into a celebrity and you asked them what they did and they said, “I’m famous”. That probably wouldn’t be the coolest first impression! Now how would you feel if the celebrity told you their name and a couple of things they did that lead to a conversation where you both grew to know each other. You would no longer view that person as higher or lower and or trying to “be” something. You would view them as an individual who is just like you, looking to work and strive for something they’re passionate about. When walking away from the conversation you might tell others that the individual was “famous” but that title was never force-fed, it was a title that was earned.
In conclusion, if you have an idea that you believe in, go for it… especially when you’re young, I mean think about all the free time you have. Do be wary of how you position yourself. Authenticity is key and is the foundation of building a strong network. Let others speak for you, like anything in life you’re more likely to believe something you heard from a third party than an individual.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We aren’t currently hiring anyone full time. That being the case every individual we’ve brought on has provided value to us on the front end to quantifiably justify why they’re a great fit for our company. The best way to get involved is to join our ambassador program, meet the team/community, and grow with us!
If you’d like to apply go ahead and fill out this application!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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