1. Differentiate yourself
Michael Morse, president and CEO of Louisiana Fish Fry, says the ability to sell a product nationwide depends on its position and an entrepreneur’s ability to capitalize on what will differentiate that product on the market.
“If you market it as Louisiana based, or if there’s a unique aspect, you’ve got a niche product,” Morse says. Matt Beeson, of Swamp Dragon Hot Sauce, suggests entrepreneurs “shout” their differentiator at people. At trade shows, he approaches people with four words: liquor-based hot sauce. “It gets their attention,” he says.
Gaye Sandoz, director for the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, says entrepreneurs should set up meetings with buyers before attending a trade show and remember to follow up with them afterward. Richard Hanley, founder of Hanley’s Foods, a Baton Rouge-based salad dressing company, suggests entrepreneurs aim local and stay persistent. The first store to carry one of Hanley’s dressings was a downtown establishment he would frequent for lunch. Today, the products are carried regionally by Walmart, Rouses and other sellers.
3. Be deliberate with company culture
Walk-On’s co-founder and CEO Brandon Landry advises entrepreneurs take deliberate steps to establish a company culture, though he warns it takes more than buying snazzy toys for the corporate office to have a culture. “Just because you have a pinball machine doesn’t mean you have culture,” he says. “Culture is a goal that everyone on the team is living and breathing every day. It’s no fluke.”
4. Complete your due diligence
Brian J. LaFleur, developer of LaFleur Industries, encourages cash-seeking entrepreneurs to look into their would-be investor’s portfolio. An investment has to be a good fit for both parties—the investor and the entrepreneur. Relationships with early investments could hint at how working with that investor will play out.
5. Know your stuff
There’s no worse look than an entrepreneur who doesn’t understand his or her own company’s financials and infrastructure, especially when trying to court an investor. A company leader should know exactly when they will need additional funding, says Chris Jordan, chairman and founder of Omnideck, and they should be flexible enough to bring on people to help as needed.
On a related matter:
Ongoing quest for a healthy Baton Rouge entrepreneurial ecosystem
A 2019 Emergent Method study revealed Baton Rouge is struggling to keep its entrepreneurial ecosystem—split between two major groups with too-often duplicated resources—in good health. On the surface, not much has changed since the report came out and only marginal improvements are expected in the next year.
The two major entrepreneurial players—the Research Park Corporation, which houses the Louisiana Technology Park, and LSU Innovation Park—were highlighted in the study for their duplicative efforts and gaps in service due to a lack of joint ventures.
The study’s 18-month plan isn’t being followed to the letter, but the groups say they plan to make progress in the new year by raising awareness of their respective services. As for collaboration, each points to the recent BREW event and an upcoming entrepreneurial education program as evidence they’re taking points of the study’s message to heart.
As a result, the ecosystem should see small signs of improvement in 2020, but won’t rise to the groundbreaking level outlined in the 2019 study.