This month, former ABC Shark Tank investor Kevin Harrington, entered into a worldwide marketing agreement with Coolbox, an innovative new tool box that combines storage with numerous user features and functions that make projects easier, safer and more enjoyable.
While these types of business agreements occur every day in business, this particular partnership was unique because of the extremely unlikely team and remarkable timing that led to the Coolbox success.
For the company’s co-founder, Chris Stoikos, Coolbox was the first serious and focused endeavor into entrepreneurship. As a creative type with years of " maker" experience, developing a new toolbox for other creative types was simple -- getting it to market was the challenge.
Where this narrative deviates from other entrepreneurial stories is what happened next.
Not completely satisfied with this first success, Stoikos launched into a second company, Dollar Beard Club, a subscription-based home delivery beard oil club, just a few months later. Following the viral success of a similar, less-hairy subscription-based startup, his beard product company also quickly went viral and found instant success.
Stoikos continued to split his time between hardware and beard-ware over the next year, even airing a Dollar Beard Club commercial during a commercial break of an ABC’s Shark Tank episode that featured Coolbox.
So how does Stoikos and his team allocate resources and energy to effectively grow two successful yet wildly different businesses? The answer, it turns out, provides great insight for other entrepreneurs.
1. Form a team of those willing to go through hell with you.
Stoikos is known by his peers for his ability to build teams and motivate people -- as evidenced by the palpable energy he exudes in his promotional videos. Stoikos also understands the importance of building a useful nexus of individuals to both compensate for his weaknesses and compliment his talents, and he often surrounds himself with other entrepreneurial-minded people who are as passionate and innovative as him -- possibly more so.
When starting CoolBox, Stoikos recruited his long-time best friend, a sales and marketing manager and a full-time videographer, and the four lived in the same house in Huntington Beach, Calif., in order to live as frugally as possible.
"That time in our life was really f*cking tough," states Stoikos. "We were sleeping on couches, begging our family for money, skipping meals, and (my best friend) Alex was even sleeping in our garage, which we had to turn into a makeshift bedroom."
2. Ride the momentum of success.
After successfully launching Coolbox on Indiegogo, Stoikos and team member Jason Neubauer received a call notifying them that their application had been accepted to pitch Coolbox on the ABC primetime show, Shark Tank. The two were impossibly busy trying to fill the Indiegogo campaign but accepted the invitation. In fact, the scheduled taping day, Stoikos was arriving from a visit with manufacturers in Hong Kong and barely made it to the Shark Tank set to film their segment.
After the show, Stoikos and his team were told by Shark Tank producers that their segment might never air. Completely undeterred, Stoikos was riding new found energy from the experience, which he quickly turned to a new project.
"Being on set for Shark Tank made me realize that the boys and I really had a good thing going," says Stoikos. "We had another idea that we were all passionate about but had taken a back seat to Coolbox. I knew that suppressing this idea made no sense, given our recent success. We had less than no money, and people thought we were crazy, but we were riding the excitement of Coolbox and were confident we could make our next endeavor equally successful."
Shortly after their Shark Tank taping, Stoikos and his growing team ("the boys") launched Dollar Beard Club, a website they had been secretly developing for months. The idea, which featured beard oils and products that the team (all well-bearded men) had formulated and developed themselves, received immediate attention and support from several of their trusted mentors, including Dan Fleyshman and Brandon Hampton.
"The first day (of the Dollar Beard Club launch) was half decent," says Stoikos, "but then we woke up to a significant amount of discussions on Reddit, followed by countless other media outlets contacting us for information. At that point, my good (and bearded) friend Dan Bilzerian, the King of Instagram, decided to join forces, and we saw DBC soar to new heights."
While Dollar Beard Club started taking off, Coolbox began running into production delays that made it difficult to fill the orders from Indiegogo. "At the end of the day," stated Stoikos, "we refused to make any compromises in quality and process, but it did cause us to fall behind schedule. It started to become apparent that it was time to bring in the big guns."
3. Recognize the limits of your success.
Knowing that they needed help to make Coolbox truly successful, Stoikos turned to Kevin Harrington, a Coolbox business mentor and original Shark Tank investor. Harrington had been advising the team for months, and together were discussing terms of an agreement with Harrington, which included additional fund raising and a management team out of Texas.
As the production delays mounted and negotiations continued, Stoikos finally received a call from the ABC producers -- months after the taping -- who indicated that the Coolbox Shark Tank episode had made the cut and would air. The episode aired in April 2016, and just a few weeks later, CoolBox and Harrington entered into a worldwide marketing agreement, adding the management group out of Texas to run operations and raise additional capital.
"I have always looked up to Kevin," Stoikos said. "I think him and his team are absolute gangsters when it comes to worldwide retail marketing and direct to consumer sales. He and I were able to work out a deal that will see Coolbox become a household name through Kevin's expertise and connections while also allowing us to collaborate on marketing it together."
"When I first met Chris," stated Harrington, "I knew there was something special about this kid, and when I first saw Coolbox, I knew he was really on to something." According to Harrington, he and his team have big plans for Coolbox and are excited to join forces with Coolbox.
With Coolbox "under new management," Stoikos intends to actually turn his full focus on bringing Dollar Beard Club into a period of systematic and scalable growth. According to Stoikos, "Right now, we have teamed up with 500 Startups and have been working closely with a number the partners and mentors. We have hit 70,000 monthly subscribers with Dollar Beard Club, and with the systems we are now putting in place, we intend to triple that in the next 12 months."
When asked if he had learned a lesson about business focus, Stoikos laughs, "Right now, growth (of Dollar Beard Club) is my number-one priority. However, when DBC’s wheels are spinning at max capacity, then have no doubt that this is only the beginning for the boys and me. The best is yet to come."
That sounds like a definite "maybe."