Growing, Failing, and Healing: Stojo’s Journey in the Omni-channel Space
What goes into designing a product, and the lessons learned when growth stalls
That first online sale plus the first time a retailer agrees to carry your product are always exciting. But when you can’t meet the demand of your online customer base or your design process is slowed and shipments are delayed, that’s when the headaches come twofold.
But when your mission, and your product, is something you truly believe in and think can leave a lasting impact, you take all the good with the bad and keep on pushing forward.
Stojo, a company that produces collapsible, leak-proof cups and containers, there have been wins and losses of every kind, and co-founder and CEO Jurrien Swarts has been riding the waves as best as he can as his company tries to get a piece of a $22 billion industry.
Around the world, consumers are using various vessels to carry their drinks of choice. From coffee to tea to water to those green drinks, folks gotta drink, and they need something to keep all that liquid in. For too long, single-use disposable cups were the main solution for this problem, which led to hundreds of millions of tons of waste.
So Swarts and his co-founder wanted to do something about it, and Swarts says the mission has been his guide from day one.
“When it came time for me to helm my own brand… I said, ‘You know what? I want to build a brand that does this, that’s mission and purpose-driven,’” he says. “On the one hand, I have my sustainability message, and then I have control over the storytelling and the imagery that I want to put out there. What I want to do is appeal to people who want to support brands that they think are conducting themselves in society in the right way because it’s the right thing to do and not because they have to do it or because it’s the most expedient or the most profitable thing to do.”
Profitability wasn’t an issue though, at least not at first.
“The first sale was when we launched our Kickstarter in June of 2014,” Swarts says. “When we got that first backer and then the euphoria around that, having created a product, done a video, put together a campaign and then pressed Go was… It was really, really incredible.”
Stojo found success fast with an omni-channel model selling on its own site, on Amazon, and in retail. The company was doubling its revenue expectations and by 2018 was projecting to be making more than $10 million in revenue the following year. But then the world took a turn in 2020.
“We’d hired a team that was supposed to preside over a 14 or 15 million-revenue company and we were going to be a six million-dollar revenue company again,” Swarts says. “We had to cut the staff. It was really, really difficult to manage through that. I’d never done that before… What was kind of a blessing in disguise was that when we cut back the staff last year, we realized that what we really needed to be much more scrappy was a different kind of a team than I had envisioned. A year ago, I was one person. I’d never scaled before, never managed that many people, all these things. Today, where we are today is we know much more what we need.”
What Stojo needed to make it through that rough patch was a low-cost strategy that had enough reach to actually make an impact.
“We were like, ‘What are we going to do with no budget?’” Swarts says. “‘How can we do this? We got to get really scrappy. We don’t have any money to spend. We have to be breakeven or profitable every month we can.’ The influencer strategy is one of those things that if your brand has the right market acceptance and fit and you can relate to the right individuals, it’s a really, really interesting way to go.”
Stojo leaned in to influencers more than it ever had in the past, and it worked. The company was punching above its weight and back to competing against the big boys again. And now, the company is on sturdy footing again ready to grow once more.
To learn more about how Stojo is approaching the future, tune in to Up Next in Commerce.
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