Scott Norton, co-founder of Sir Kensington’s, discusses strategies and tips that led to his success as an entrepreneur
“The potential for innovation is anywhere that is overlooked,” began Scott Norton, co-founder of Sir Kensington’s, a food company that, in their words, “brings integrity and charm to ordinary and overlooked food.” As a 2008 Brown University graduate, the Breakthrough Lab was especially excited to welcome Scott to open the first week of our summer program. The arc of his story started in a Brown entrepreneurship course and continues even now through his company’s recent acquisition by Unilever.
In describing his personal pathway, from founding a startup striving to make inroads into the well-established and staid condiments market to managing a multi-million dollar business, Norton openly presented many of the challenges he faced along the way. B-Lab ventures found much wisdom they could translate to their own situations. For example, Norton explained how entering a market with huge, well-known players was one of his greatest obstacles when starting this particular business. He explained that consumers have preconceptions and expectations about condiments, right down to the shapes of their bottles and jars, wondering how he could disrupt a market that no one had touched in almost a century.
He began his venture in classic entrepreneurial fashion: hanging out in supermarkets and engaging one-on-one with customers. Norton said “the best thing I could hear from a customer was what they hated” about the present product offerings, pushing him to work harder and explore the hidden flaws within his own products. For Sir Kensington’s, customer discovery revolved around listening, asking questions, and most importantly, empathy, all key ingredients of bottom-up research. He credited his understanding of these important lessons to having taken Danny Warshay’s ENGN-1010 class, The Entrepreneurial Process. Scott shared two helpful resources that guided him through the early stages of his business: Seth Goden’s book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable and Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” talk. Scott discovered that novelty and nostalgia would be among the unique attributes that shaped Sir Kensington’s products and success.
Being a stand-out marketer was an important element of his remarks. “You have to win people’s attention. When the average human being is marketed to over 6,000 times a day, how do you make your product noticeable?” Throughout his presentation, Norton directly engaged the ventures with challenges like, “how can your product change the market and the world?” It was a question that forced our ventures to think big. Deanna Stueber, a Brown graduate student and B-Lab member, is starting a venture focused on a new drug delivery system to help women with menstrual cramps. She shared with the group, “how can a girl sit in a classroom in pain and absorb the same information as the person sitting next to them who is not experiencing that pain?” She went on to explain that their venture seeks to “help women feel 100%, 100% of the time.” Norton’s question helped this venture think about the specific values that they want to instill in their company and how they want their product to impact the world.
After sharing with the group how Sir Kensington’s was recently acquired by Unilever, a major milestone in his career and company, he attributed his success to three main principles; setting values as a company, displaying self-awareness, and leadership. He explained that a shortfall in any of these principles can lead your business astray, demonstrating that “there are many good ideas, but those that are successful tend to follow a certain pathway.” Often individuals will find themselves renewing their commitment to their business over and over again. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are key to any entrepreneur’s self care. He left us with these words:
“if you see entrepreneurship as a tool to shape your character, fulfillment will come.”
B-Lab thanks Scott Norton for sharing his advice and journey with our 2017 cohort. For the full talk, follow this link.