This is a follow up story for Ice Shaker. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
What's up, everyone. My name is Chris Gronkowski, I am the middle of the 5 Gronkowski brothers. We are most known for Sports, 4 brothers played in the NFL, and our oldest brother Gordie was drafted by the MLB.
My company is Ice Shaker, we sell insulated kitchen-grade stainless steel bottles. It started as a product that I wanted for myself. I wanted one bottle that I could use all day, every day. But it had to keep my drinks cold, it had to be easy to fill and clean and it had to have the ability to mix powder like protein. When I couldn’t find anything that could do it all, I started Ice Shaker as a side hustle. I was lucky to get onto ABC’s shark tank after 6 months and received offers from all 5 sharks. The company exploded and it went from a side hustle to a full-time business overnight. We went from $80,000 in sales in the first 6 months to over $3M in sales in the next 12 months.
We have continued to grow year over year and feel that 2021 is going to be one of our biggest growth periods. We have geared up and moved into a new warehouse that is 3x the size to prepare for our growth in 2021.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
The business has steadily grown over the last couple of years. Covid at first was a scary situation but we realized pretty quickly that our demand was increasing now that everyone needed a water bottle for school, work, and youth sports games.
You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it then they will never purchase it.
We have greatly increased sales by adding a sales team. We were previously spending a lot on digital ads, but you can never hit everyone without getting some boots on the ground.
We brought in a bunch of new employees from fulfillment to customer service and multiples on the sales team.
Email marketing is still very strong for us, and SMS is something new that has really taken off. We just started SMS towards the end of last year and the returns on it have been insane. We have about 16,000 members on our SMS list and we are seeing 30x returns on our SMS blasts. It has been incredible to see.
We did bring in an agency for the first time to build out our ads on Facebook and IG. So far, we are not seeing the returns we were hoping for. In fact, the returns have been worst so far and we will cut ties with the agency if it doesn’t turn around quickly.
The agencies make a lot of promises and show you their best case studies, but so far we have not benefited from using an agency. We are optimistic that this will change as it's only been about a month so far.
We are starting to break more into the esports and gaming world. It has been a little tricky trying to figure out the best steps, but the gamers that we have worked with so far have been great to work with.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The biggest thing I learned in 2020 was teamwork. It’s funny because coming from a sports background, you would think that building a team would be easy and the first thing that I did.
In fact, I didn’t at all. I had such a competitive mindset and had way too much on my plate because, in my mind, no one could do as good of a job as I could.
2020 changed my mindset greatly. It made me realize that I was holding the team back, I had way too much responsibility and I needed help. With three kids at home under the age of 3, and my wife trying to run her own business as well (that was larger and had more employees than mine), we were in way over our heads. I had to lean on the team and delegate responsibility accordingly.
It was an eye-opener because once that happened we started to grow. Everyone was on the same page and it made me realize that great teams win championships, not individual players. I started to align the company with the same structure that I saw in the NFL and wanted to make sure that the culture was the same as well - One team, with one goal in mind, and every person is important to our success.
The next biggest thing I learned was that I needed a monthly budget and forecast. My Dad has been in business for over 35 years. He owns a company called G&G Fitness (livefit.com) and he kept telling me this over and over again. I finally listened to him and it was a massive game-changer. If you have been in business for a couple of years, you can pretty much predict before it even happens how much revenue you will have each month. And then based on those numbers, you can make much better decisions and find ways to lower costs and increase profits. I didn’t think that it would help as much as it did and the first month that we implemented it we saw massive increases in profit.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We realized in 2020 that we had a very strong business model and winning product that we needed to really focus on more. Instead of continuing to build out new product lines, we realized that we have hardly saturated the market with our current products. We put a much more detailed plan into effect for 2021 and looked into new markets that we could tap into.
We brought in a sales team for the first time and started to pull away from our dependence on social ads. We have a much more balanced approach to our sales channels and if we were to lose one of them we would still be able to succeed, which isn't always the case.
We are excited to start attending events with a new focus at the events. Previously we would set up booths and our goal was to sell to the customers at the events. We did a poor job of following up with all the amazing people we met at the shows and contacts that we received. Our new focus at these events would be networking and making sales after the events. We are also looking into wholesale-type events where we can sell in bulk and get POs at the events.
New products for us will focus on the youth sports market. Larger bottles and jugs for all-day summer events should arrive this year before the summer months hit. New colors and patterns are always coming out quarterly for our current bottle styles.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I have been getting more into Clubhouse lately. There are a lot of very knowledgeable people on the clubhouse app that are willing to help and give advice for free. I have taken a few tips from there already and put them into play.
I am not currently an avid reader of books. I would rather listen to a podcast while I am working out or driving to work. My all-time favorite podcast is still the MFCEO project with Andy Frisella. It is not currently being broadcast, but there are over 300 episodes posted that are all full of very useful information.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
If you are looking to grow your business, then you have to network! You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it then they will never purchase it. The best thing I did was joining and spending time on TikTok. If you post value-driven content, TikTok is going to push it out for you. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, every post has a chance of going viral if the content you are posting is good.
I didn’t go on to promote my business, but I lead with value instead. I get millions of views weekly on my videos and it has led to countless amount of sales. It’s a very powerful channel for me and I suggest that anyone with a business should join. You can check out my channel.
Join groups on Facebook, set up booths at events, try new and engaging ads on Facebook/IG. Build an email list, SMS list, and a sales team. And then figure out which one is giving you the best return and figure out how to continue to build it out.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, we are looking for sales reps that would be selling into the health and fitness space. We do really well with CrossFit gyms, nutrition shops, car dealerships and definitely need some more help on our sales team.
We are always looking for gamers to join our team as well. We love working with gamers because our bottle is great for gaming and we can personalize our bottles with gamer logos and Gamertags.
Where can we go to learn more?
Learn more on the website, @iceshaker on Instagram, @iceshakerbottle on FB, and please check me out and my profiles @chrisgronkowski on IG, Twitter, and TikTok.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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