In today’s small business success interview, we talk with Curtis Stevens, also known as “The One Creator.” Curtis is the founder of One & Done, a new seasoning company.
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Enter Sign50 at checkout on www.oneseasoning.com to redeem this coupon.
Tell us about yourself.
I have been an entrepreneur since grade school. It all started with selling pencils to my classmates in the 6th grade. This was over 22 years ago. Since then, I’ve done countless things, including starting up and running several businesses. It put me through college but I have yet to ever work for an employer outside of high school. I have always been my own boss and truly believe entrepreneurship runs in my blood.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I have always wanted my own product to sell but like everyone else, coming up with that special product was no easy task. Then one day I realized I never truly loved any seasoning product I have ever tried so I decided to come up with something fantastic myself. After months of hard work, One & Done® was born and officially launched in July 2016.
What does your company do? And what sets you apart from your competition?
Everyone’s response to the product has been phenomenal and I truly believe One & Done® is the world’s best and most versatile seasoning. What other seasoning do you know of that can be used on everything, from steak to vegetables to saltine crackers? Simply put, it is more versatile than salt and pepper itself. That’s what makes One & Done® special, besides the awesome taste.
What is one strategy for gaining customers that you have been successful with?
There is no single strategy or silver bullet for gaining customers, unless you are lucky and get an opportunity to be on Shark Tank for example. I’m a true entrepreneur. My mind is turning 24/7, trying to think of ideas on how to sell my product and grow the business. For me, I can sell directly to consumers, wholesale to retail stores and through distributors or big box retail stores. Each channel has its own challenges. I’m trying everything I can think of. It isn’t cheap but I hired a marketing company that manages all of the advertising for me, including Adwords, Facebook ads, retargeting ads, etc. I’m active on Facebook and Instagram. I’m trying to sell my product at local shows, entering food tasting contests to obtain awards, talking to a Shark Tank casting member in the early stages of my launch and even sending out samples of my product to whatever addresses I could find for all of the Sharks. No responses, but it doesn’t cost me much and if you throw out enough lines, something has to eventually bite.
You must love your product more than anyone else and if you do, your actions should speak volumes. If I could, I wouldn’t ever sleep; I’d just work 24/7.
Is there an area that you’ve struggled with in regards to customer acquisition that you believe is critical to future success? If so, how are you overcoming that?
Obtaining customers is hard, plain and simple. My company is in the early stages, so my acquisition cost is outrageous and I’m still not even close to breaking even. However, building any food brand in today’s marketplace is very expensive and challenging. You can’t expect it to be done overnight.
How do you compete with bigger competitors that are similar to yours but have a recognizable brand and large marketing budgets?
I don’t focus on my competitors except for what they are doing and if any of those ideas make sense for me to implement myself. Other than that, I’m completely focused on my product and what I can do to build the brand.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have had with your business and how did you overcome it?
Staying focused and accomplishing every idea I come up with is difficult. Since I’m always thinking, I have too many things going on and it’s hard to get it all done. Selling directly to consumers and wholesale to retail stores at the same time is challenging. If that isn’t hard enough, I also am managing my other business that I currently have, but that’s what puts food on my table and is actually what funds One & Done®.
You mentioned you have other businesses that you’re managing. Which businesses are those? And what lessons have you borrowed from those and applied to One & Done®?
My other business is Gotmerchant.com, where I sell POS systems with credit card processing. Clients range from restaurants to retail stores all across the country. One & Done® has most of my focus right now, which I don’t like but the good part is I’m an independent dealer for another company, so all of my existing customers are always well taken care of. I’m just not focusing as much as I should on marketing, advertising, etc., such as I needed a new website 10 years ago.
And that second question is really hard to say as I have learned so much over the years. I’ve learned how to be a good business person, what to do and not, how important various things are like branding, image, etc. All of that matters. Like with conversions. If you convert more of the same visitors you already have, your sales will instantly go up. A/B test everything. Look at companies like Amazon and see what they are doing. They do everything for a reason. They are very calculated and A/B test everything.
If you could rewind time is there anything you’d do differently? If so, what?
I would’ve come up with One & Done® years ago.
If you had advice for other SMB owners, regardless of the industry, what would it be?
Never stop thinking. Never get complacent. If it helps, convince yourself that your competition is going to run you out of business and you must keep improving, growing and getting better to stay ahead of them. Lastly, marketing and branding matters. Your brand, logo and image, all must represent your company and product. It must look professional.
How do you “WOW” your customers?
I give out One & Done® Honey Nut Cheerios samples at the shows I do. The challenging part is to get people to even taste them since it sounds gross. Almost everyone who does try it can’t believe it and normally buys it on the spot.
What do you think the future holds for your business?
I believe the future is very bright but it is going to be a long and difficult journey, much more difficult than any other business I’ve created.
Without sharing detailed financials can you speak to your growth to this point and why you think it will continue?
I’m still at the stage of building the brand. Sales are coming in but nowhere close to a breakeven point. 2017 will be the year to make it or break it.
Where can you be found on the internet?
Website — www.oneseasoning.com
Facebook — www.facebook.com/oneseasoning
Instagram — www.instagram.com/oneseasoning
You do a pretty fantastic job of presenting your brand and having a nice looking website. Did you develop the skills to do these things? Or do you hire out? What should other small business owners do?
Thank you! I know a lot of html coding from learning on the job over the years, but today’s websites are so much different and more complex. Do you remember what websites looked like 10-15 years ago? You now have responsive websites that adjust to the device you are on, like a cell phone vs. a computer. I have always been reluctant to spend that money being the conservative person I am. Once I created One & Done®, I was really focused on the brand and image, since it is my own product. I hired a marketing company that included the web design as part of their marketing service. Their service isn’t cheap, but probably cheaper than hiring an employee to do what they are doing. You are also leveraging a company with a lot of employees and knowledge to your advantage, i.e. marketing, data, conversions, etc. Their sole job is to bring you as many customers and conversions as possible. I have learned I can’t do everything myself. Like others have said, hire the best people to do the jobs for you. I can’t outsource everything… My focus is sales and getting the brand out there. Without that, nothing else matters.
In today’s market, I would say almost every business needs a website and make sure it is responsive. Then market the heck out of it. When you spend money on something that was a huge waste, learn from it and grow. Lastly, study your competition until you are blue in the face.
Editor’s Note: We wanted to tell Curtis thank you for doing this interview with us. Curtis has been an entrepreneur since he was in grade school. He started out selling pencils to his classmates, and has started up several businesses ever since, with his most recent being One & Done®. Curtis chalks his entrepreneurial success up to always thinking of new and better ways to do things, never being complacent, staying focused and loving your product more than anyone else. He’s also learned that marketing and branding matter, and that small business owners need to be actively marketing their brand and product, by hiring a marketing agency, being active on social media and, if it makes sense, attending local shows, to push themselves ahead of their competitors. Thanks again Curtis for your time, and we look forward to seeing what your entrepreneurial mind comes up with next!