There’s been a bit of press buzz about a new candy line, created by a 15-year-old. It’s called Unreal Brands. The news stories focus on the deep wealth and connections of the teenager’s parents, and his chutzpah in creating a healthy snack. The boy invented the candy because wanted to stop the arguments he was having with his parents about indulging his sweet tooth. As much as I cheer young Nicky Bronner, the press is really focusing on the wrong thing.
Starting a company, even at 15, is not all that unusual. According to the Kauffman Foundation, 54% of young Americans have or plan to start a company. We see that every day at Grommet through product and company submissions. (Though we rarely see entrepreneurs, of any age, with the family connections like this kid has.)
What we don’t see as often is a young product landing major retail accounts right out of the gate, like Unreal Brands. I describe the difficulty of doing that as similar to navigating a mysterious Turkish rug bazaar. Or climbing Mount Everest. The retail industry is secretive, traditional, and relationship-driven. And asking a retail buyer to give up shelf space from a trusted vendor, and to risk their performance bonus on a young unproven company, is usually a non-starter. (When I see an industry like that, I see opportunity for disruption and improvement–both by new business models and technology.)
A quote in the WSJ article about Unreal Brands really drives that point home:
CVS Caremark will be the first to carry the candies in its 7,300 stores nationwide starting next month. Judy Sansone, senior vice president of merchandising for Woonsocket, R.I., drugstore chain, said she cannot remember the last time a new or small candy business struck a deal with the retailer. Recent dealings have been for Hershey Co.’s Air Delight, Mars Inc.’s Pretzel M&M’s and Skinny Cow.
She can’t REMEMBER this national chain even TRYING a new candy. There are zillions of new candy and snack companies trying to get into CVS. They don’t have this teenager’s parents. They don’t have a chance, outside of what new business models like Daily Grommet and Kickstarter are delivering: an accelerated vetting process and market traction. We derisk new products and SHARE that data with retailers. We don’t hoard success…our job is to reproduce it across the retail landscape.
When you buy from Daily Grommet, you are taking a powerful step to getting all those unknown innovations into real distribution. You are giving us feedback that we can use to make a strong case for a new product to CVS, or Walgreens, or Williams Sonoma, or Nordstrom. Mainly, you are helping level the playing field (against the established players) for deserving undiscovered companies and products. Bet you didn’t know how powerful a simple purchase at Grommet could be!