• Summary

  • Stairway to CEO is a podcast, hosted by entrepreneur Lee Greene, featuring untold stories from inspiring Founders & CEOs about what it takes to start and grow a business.
    Stairway Group LLC © 2022
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  • May 24 2022

    In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

    • His story of growing up in Miami and having to move to Boca Raton after Hurricane Andrew destroyed his childhood home when he was just 12 years old
    • The decision to study Spanish and attend a liberal arts college
    • How three of his buddies from Duke decided to start a college incubator, creating  a place for hopeful entrepreneurs
    • How he landed in investment banking, staying in the field for 20 years, and the fundamental things he learned
    • The key things he believes make a great entrepreneur
    • The energy he felt from attending Expo West, and how it inspired him to start a snack brand
    • Why he chose to do a snack brand, as he's always loved the snack industry and choosing dried fruit because he noticed the white space for dried fruit
    • How his great-grandma inspired him to be an entrepreneur and helped shift his perspective on being interested in healthy foods
    • How RIND has managed to become available in over 3000 retail stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Wegman's, and CVS.

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    “I held a lot of different jobs so I could understand the value of work and that it is hard and it is, backbreaking sometimes. There's value in all sorts of work.”

    “I didn't want to go into a conventional job or career because it felt like there were just too many exciting, shiny new things going on.”

    “I wanted to create something out of nothing and create something that had impact and meaning.”

    “When you’re learning, it doesn’t feel like work.”

    “There is a curiosity that gnaws at most entrepreneurs, it's a thread that needs to be pulled when they encounter something that excites them or they've encountered a problem where there may be a better solution to it.”

    “There is going to be resolve that is required to actually push through every single obstacle that is going to be against you. And by definition, you're doing something totally new and novel that hasn't been done before. There is no roadmap it's going to be brutal.

    “You're an idea person until you take a first action step, and then you become an entrepreneur.”

    “When fruits are growing in an orchard, the skin or the rind is the most nutrient potent part of the fruit because it's exposed to the elements and the environmental stress of the growing season, that it has the most antioxidants and flavonoids and fiber.” 

    “Sometimes the safer decision is the riskier decision.”

    “You have to share a vision with customers and stakeholders about a company that can stretch into multiple categories with a value proposition that works across all of those categories.”

    “We are not a bag of peels, we're the whole fruit and a snackable slice of the whole fruit.”

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    1 hr and 1 min
  • May 17 2022

    In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

    • What it was like growing up with immigrant parents chasing the American dream, and moving to America to become founders themselves
    • How he was given the nickname AP Cai in high school, for taking the most AP classes, although he wasn't thrilled with school
    • His early signs of being an entrepreneur in high school, by starting two companies 
    • Why he chose to take a leave of absence in college, to focus on his first startup, Fountain
    • What he's learned from being a first-time founder, that finding what you’re excited about and having a team you’re motivated to be with, is the most important
    • The failures he’s learned from and that being focused on one thing and building that first will make the overall vision stronger
    • Where the idea for Italic came from, and why he believes the strategic moves they make are what helps Italic stand out
    • Why Italic chose to begin with a membership, and how they’ve recently changed the prerequisites
    • The decision to use price analysis for each individual product and include the top competitors 
    • The reasoning behind the name Italic, how he chose it, and the six-figure price of buying italic.com 
    • The journey to fundraising over $50 million from investors, and what tips he has for raising
    • The three universal points he has for aspiring entrepreneurs

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    “My sister and I were kind of pressured to go in and do something great from a pretty early age. So for me, I  tried to manifest that in many ways.”

    “I've always appreciated the idea of selling a physical product to someone and delivering a kind of value.”

    “The most important thing you can possibly do is either find an idea that you're personally excited about or build a team that you're personally really motivated to be with. Ideally, it's the combination of both.”

    “Focusing inherently means you are choosing to do one thing and you're choosing not to do another”

    “Where the founder spends his time is where the gravity of the business is pulled towards.”

    “Italic really came from that pool of the time to find the financing environment and I think most importantly, the idea of being exciting.”

    “We really think of Italic as a flywheel, the more customers we have, the more leverage we have to bring on new manufacturers, the more manufacturers and the more leverage we have with them, the more products we can offer.”

    “We want to offer the same quality and same kind of level design as these great brands, but at a much more value-driven price point.”

    “If you're sharing an accurate picture of the company, it's up to the investor whether they decide to invest or not and do their diligence, it wasn't because you sold them a false narrative.”

    “Playing the game in retail means you have to find some angle that uniquely differentiates yourself from the others.”

    “When you're talking to investors they trust that you'll build a good company for them.”

    “Whoever you bring into the organization is what the organization is going to become. When you're small, it's more important than ever that you're bringing in people who fit the cultural kind of value you set.”

    “Make sure you are working on what is important because that doesn't really change, the heart of the business rarely changes. Of course, you'll hear an occasional success story, like slack or what have you, but more often than not, that doesn't change and it's important that you set the right north star.”

    “Execution makes the strategy successful, not the strategy itself.”

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    56 mins
  • May 10 2022

    In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

    • Her journey growing up in Los Angeles, with a passion for food, and her experience having an entrepreneurial parent
    • How her French grandma is the inspiration behind French Squirrel, and the story behind how her mom bought the domain name for frenchsquirrel.com when she was 11 years old
    • Her time working at Pressed Juicery in college, how she had to take her food handlers license and hated it, but it ended up being worth it for French Squirrel
    • How she graduated from college early, unsure of what she wanted to do, so she landed a position as Brand Manager at Erewhon 
    • How her boss at Erewhon encouraged her to start French Squirrel, and continued to push her to launch the brand
    • How she balances both her full-time job at Erewhon and building her company
    • The challenges of expanding French Squirrel and not having direct access to the company with distribution, but the good parts that come with it 
    • Why she wants to continue bootstrapping the business and grow organically
    • What’s next for the company and continuing expansion into retail and online 

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    “I look at every single grocery store product on the shelf and I think about what the stairway was to get there.”

    “I would go as far to say that I could not have built French Squirrel to what it is today without being at Erewhon.” 

    “I always knew I wanted to start my own business when I started my French Squirrel Instagram, but I didn't know what the product was.”

    “I would make these protein bites, that I would bring to work as my work snack, and I would always eat them behind my computer at my desk around like three or four with my cappuccino.”

    “When looking at the data, looking at the sales, people like when something looks homemade.”

    “People like to see what they're eating and they want to know that it was made with love and made in a small batch, not on a machine.’

    “Sometimes dates on their own can be a little freaky for some people. They don't like the texture or it's too sweet, but when you balance it out with the unsweetened chocolate and the nut butter and the salt, I think it makes it more appealing.”

    “I was trying to satisfy my chocolate craving in the afternoon, but without the sugar.”

    “There's not a day that goes by where there isn't something I have to fix or resolve.”

    “I want the company to be successful and I know it will be successful, but I'm not planning on blowing up, I just want to take it slow.”

    “Just start an actionable start, instead of talk, which is the talk is great, but who's actually doing?

    Try it. And if it fails, but I don't even like the word fail, because if you learned from it, it's not a failure.”

    “If you learned from it, it's not a failure.”

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    52 mins

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