Varun Sharma of Laumière Gourmet Fruits: “Five Things I Learned As A Twenty-Something Founder”
Lesson 1: You are your biggest competitor. If having a great product is the first ingredient to success, building a customer-centric culture, and caring about your users is definitely the second. As your product gains traction, it’s always critical to assess the level of customer support you can give. Build a company where everyone truly understands their customers and what they’re getting out of the product, every step of the way.
As a part of our series called “My Life as a Twenty-Something Founder,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Varun Sharma.
He is an entrepreneur with a personal mission to inspire and empower my community to create a better world with the help of technology and knowledge. His latest venture Laumière Gourmet Fruits is a D2C company that aims to change the traditional perception of nutrition and set new trends in the world of healthy-eating, gifting, and self-indulgence. He also previously co-founded Inara, the largest student-run non-profit organization in UAE, Inara, that had over 400 volunteers and outreach of 10,000 people. Varun has also been a TEDx Speaker and was awarded the BITSAA Mantra Award for Social Leadership by his Alma mater.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I would say I am another person trying to make a positive impact with everything I do. This has been an ideology that has been inculcated in me from an early age and the feeling of doing things worthwhile has deepened over the years. I have spent most of my life in Dubai and the city gave me so many opportunities to grow as a person. Technology has always fascinated me and I decided to pursue Computer Engineering at BITS Pilani Dubai. During my university days, I was involved in activities & events which taught me the skill sets I would need to grow as an entrepreneur which included–Being a DJ and promoting myself, being a brand manager at Red Bull, organizing multiple events at university, and interning during every vacation I had. Once done with the university I wanted to take on a career path that was impact-obsessed, solved real-world problems, and taught me the skill I needed to take on work on entrepreneurship ventures. This led me to a role in Consulting where I spent a few years working on large-scale digital transformation projects. I built an almost irrational but powerful belief that clarity and a plan can crack a problem. In the midst of the eventful years, I have had, the common denominator is my want to take risks in learning from different individuals and helping others in the process of my self-growth. Rising together as a team, organization, and community — brings me deep satisfaction and joy. The personal connection I build with people during the journey adds to the excitement and has played a pivotal role in who I am today. Today, I work on Laumière Gourmet Fruits where I advance its digital platforms and grow the e-commerce markets.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?
I was on a call with a potential partner to work out a program we were going to collaborate on and he goes like, do you want to meet at our office in San Francisco? When he found out I was talking to him from Dubai he was truly astonished by how my dad and I have been able to run the company by working in entirely different time zones and countries. This made me realize how we are efficiently growing Laumière and truly setting a new standard when it comes to globalization. Today we have teams who are remotely spaced out among the Philippines, Bangladesh, Switzerland & Berlin. Truly exciting how efficiently we have been able to maneuver a US-based company to build a global team in a span of a year.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As a co-founder, I want to better recognize our limitations and imperfections as humans, I think of the world I want and am willing to make sacrifices to create that world. That’s what makes Laumière interesting. All of us are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle whether it comes to mindfulness, exercise, or healthy eating. We at Laumière want to be a part of that journey and want to lead that movement. This also means we aren’t here to compete with other players at this time but are more focused on our desires to do something worthwhile for ourselves, our family, and the world.
A business grows by creating goodwill for the society and the business. I believe we are doing that and will continue to make decisions that are best for us, our customers, and future generations. These decisions we make today turn into habits that lead to end results.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I wouldn’t say a specific person here as I wouldn’t be doing justice to so many friends and family members who played a key role in supporting us. I think anyone who supports us by providing feedback, purchasing our products, or even sharing our posts on social media has played a key role in our growth. If it wasn’t for them, Laumière wouldn’t be what it is today.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
So many that I cannot wait for then next few months! We just released our L’Automne & Diwali Collection. We have a Hanukkah Collection launching for the first time this year, which is Kosher Certified. We have our Cadeau De Noel Collection releasing again this year. Q4 is looking absolutely busy and I am excited about what’s next.
Another aspect we are working on is getting direct feedback from our customers to work on new products. Our chefs are hard at work, developing new recipes and products which will be released in Q1 2021.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
All of us have no place to begin but ourselves. What gets me going, what keeps me motivated, and what makes me smile are the questions I ask myself before I work on anything. I want it clear in my head about the shifts I want to make to become the person I truly want to be before to better be a part of a movement and support a cause. A few years back, I took on a healthier path myself, and over the years it has become a part of my identity. Laumière aligns with those personal values of mine. My dad and I also envision the world moving to a healthier lifestyle over the next few years. We are already seeing trends towards that and only expect it to expedite over the next few years. How we bring goodness is by offering products that help in that transition. We want to create products that create a sense of discovery, excitement, and loyalty that will bond the customers with the brand and resonate with a healthier lifestyle. It will take time, but we will get there.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom has to be that book when I think about it. I was at the Delhi Airport flying back to Dubai and bought it at the airport. I couldn’t keep the book down the entire flight. Morrie inspires me to be filled with happiness and joy. He had regrets but realized that it is ok as long as you can reconcile with yourself in the end. I think it’s a book that every person should read at some point in his or her life. Morrie helps you look at life from a different angle or with a different lens. Morrie makes you realize how good life really is, despite his condition, and how we should value our time on Earth. He speaks on death not being a bad thing, but a good thing especially if you have lived the life that you wanted to. When Morrie was dying, he explained that everyone should do what they dream of doing, don’t let life get in the way of things. Money, power, etc. All that stuff is a cultural blinder, and that we should make sure we get a chance to do all of the things that we want to before we die.
Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “Twenty-Something founder.”
Lesson 1: You are your biggest competitor
If having a great product is the first ingredient to success, building a customer-centric culture, and caring about your users is definitely the second. As your product gains traction, it’s always critical to assess the level of customer support you can give. Build a company where everyone truly understands their customers and what they’re getting out of the product, every step of the way.
Lesson 2: You know nothing
Entrepreneurship has humbled me more than anything else. And I find it humbles a lot of young founders, who often set off to change the world only to feel the weight of their aspirations when they realize it doesn’t happen overnight. Theory means nothing until you’ve been in the trenches. So be passionate, set out to do something big but remember, you won’t truly know until you can say, “I’ve done that.”
Lesson 3: Personal Development is Key
A year into the journey and I am astounded at how much of a personal growth I have had in my personal life. No one talks about this enough, but we all should. My dad, Vivek, has done a lot in his 53 years. I am still young and learning. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has tested us like Laumiere. Throughout the year, we have had our highs and lows. There are days where we are hyper-focused on the business, losing sight of ourselves, and then other things would be affected. Health. Emotional Wellbeing. We have been quick to realize this was unhealthy and the moments we pushed too hard; we ended up causing more damage than good.
Over the next year, I want to have more open dialogues with other co-founders about the importance of personal well-being while building a business. What we are happy about is that we have not lost ourselves in the process and Laumière has not suffered.
Lesson 4: The burden of opportunity is real
As an entrepreneur, one of the worst things you can do is chase too many goals at once. I have struggled with this through every aspect of my life because when you’re curious about the world, you want to explore it all. Part of what allows a business to flourish is simplicity.
The moments I tried to build in too many directions at once, I failed. I overworked myself. I got burned out, even discouraged. But when I was able to focus on improving one or two channels at a time, I did better. This is a lesson that fundamentally changed how I think about not just business, but every pursuit in life. One thing at a time. Complete focus but at the same time have a work/life balance. Startup culture either promotes all work and no play or a balanced working lifestyle. Adopt the latter and do not burn yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You are in this for the long run.
Lesson 5: Entrepreneurship is lonely
This is not easy to agree to, but Entrepreneurship is lonely. By definition, you are deciding to go your own way. It takes a while to accept and emotionally address. Your efforts do not get acknowledged by the majority of the surrounding people. This is one of the hardest truths about the journey. In the process of trying to be great, you will fail at almost everything. And do you know what? That’s ok too. Because at the end of the day, all you can do is your best — and then wake up the next day and try again, and again, and again.
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty year old who is looking to found a business?
Entrepreneurship is more of a mindset than anything else
You can come up with a million ideas, and that is relatively easy. To have the will to execute an idea and convert it to a startup, you need the desire to create, to build something that will be, somehow, the continuity of yourself. It’s not the act of creating a product, service, or a company that I enjoy; for me, being an entrepreneur is a mindset that influences every aspect of life and teaches me how to be resilient. I can be a business owner without being an entrepreneur: the difference lies in the fact that an entrepreneur is constantly looking for something new, something that can grow, something that will keep you ahead of the game. Currently, I am doing so with Laumière and plan to continue doing it till we are well established. Take the risk and dive in if you want to get into it. If you’re avoiding risks, you’re risking missing out on life and the fun of entrepreneurship.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Robin Sharma. Without a doubt. He has been an inspiration to me and I am a big believer in what he philosophy.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Website — www.varunsharma.online