The Importance of Team: Q&A with Chloe's Fruit
People are the best asset to any organization. We sat down with the founding team of Chloe's Fruit to learn how they approached hiring, fundraising, and more:
What was your strategy for hiring? How did you build the right team?
The grocery business is a crowded business. There are a ton of products, plenty of options for snacks and definitely a fair share of frozen fruit pops on the market. What makes our brand, Chloe’s Fruit, special and the difference that allows us to stand out in this space, hands down is our team. Founded by Chloe Epstein, a mom of three, and her best friend, Michael Sloan (a serial entrepreneur), our journey started as a family affair in 2010 and we have made a conscious decision ever since to maintain that family approach to our culture. We fully believe people are the best asset to any business. Our mentality when hiring is simple: we can teach tasks and the fundamentals of the business, but we cannot teach integrity, passion and drive. We look for that passion when we bring people into our company, or as we look at it, our family. Family has been the key to our success.
A few key lessons we learned when building the team:
- Hire the right people before you need their position – once you need the role, it is too late
- Spend the extra money to bring in an expert – even as a consultant and try to only hire high level people who know more than you in their field of expertise
- Hire by referral, especially those of current employees – it creates a team environment that pushes everyone to do better
- Find people who want to be part of a team – when the team wins, the individual wins.
What was your process of fundraising? What was your strategy for finding investors and standing out? What’s your advice on pitching to investors?
Investors don’t just invest in a business, they invest in a team. The Chloe’s Fruit journey all started with our passionate management team and the organization of leaders we built in support that has made us attractive and successful in raising funds. Our product is absolutely amazing but without the team, not a single person would have invested in us. When we went out to raise money, we started with friends and family who believed in our vision and let them introduce us to their networks and those networks introduced us to their networks. Every investor in the business today was a referral from an existing investor. By doing this, not a single investor meeting was a cold call. Instead, each meeting started off by sharing stories of how we knew the person who connected us and how lucky we are that they are on “team Chloe’s.” But most importantly, show your investor you care as much about their money and their investment as you do your own. Don’t just tell them, but continually demonstrate through your continued passion and commitment.
How did you find your most valuable mentors? How do you keep them engaged? And how do you add value for them?
We didn’t find our mentors, our mentors found us. We have been fortunate to find mentors that do not just believe in our brand, but to sound like a broken record, we found mentors that believed in us as a team. There are a lot of qualified experts who can give us advice, there are a lot of questions we for sure need advice on, but the difference with our mentors has been in the special relationships we have been able to curate of trust and respect. We prioritize the questions that are not just important, but the questions we believe they can add the most value to. We form our conversations around what can be constructive, actionable and impactful to our business, as well as, most relevant to their area of expertise. We respect and value their time and invest in the follow-up so they can see when, where and how we choose to follow their guidance. Or in some cases when we choose not to follow their guidance we always have real, honest, truthful conversations that allows us to best function as a family. Most important, we always follow up and thank them for any help or introductions and keep them in the loop with our progress.
Describe a pivotal turning point for your business: a decision, outcome, piece of advice, breakthrough etc.
If we had one piece of advice, it would be to never stop being an entrepreneur. The business you run today most likely will not be the business you run 10 years from now. The question is, can you continue to push the boundaries, shift with the tide and adapt to the changes? Five years ago, a summer camp asked if we could provide them with 5,000 pops. At the time, we had 2 molds, could make 12 pops per hour and had never commercially sold a single pop. But we said yes and luckily had a team surrounding us that would jump through hoops to make things happen. Over the course of that summer, figured out how to scale our pop production and self -distributed all 5,000 pops, and literally became a pop company overnight. The decision to keep pushing and saying yes to the right opportunities put us in the position we are in today – the fastest growing fruit novelty in grocery, with Chloe’s Pops in over 10,000 grocery stores nationwide stores nationwide producing (with co-packing partners) tens of millions of pops a year.
Remember, our investors didn’t invest in a pop company! They invested in a management team and a concept of a clean product made of fruit, water and organic cane sugar. They believed we would figure out how to bring us to market and monetize it.