This is a week of significant change for Totsy and this blog post will undoubtedly come as a surprise to many of you.
Over the past three years, Totsy has been able to achieve what many startups only hope to accomplish. We are extremely fortunate that Totsy was one of the lucky startups that succeeded despite the most challenging of circumstances:
- We started the company during the worst recession our generation has ever seen
- We managed to secure financing during a time when most companies found it impossible to do so
- We grew nimbly in an incredibly competitive market to become a leader in our category
- We went from six orders per week to over thousands of orders per day
- We went from a bootstrapped team of entrepreneurs to a force of incredibly skilled professionals, and
- We captured national attention as one of the fastest growing digital media companies in the country
We built on this success with our recent acquisition of Mamasource and the launch of our TOTSY Plus subscription service.
However, as we move past the startup phase and look to the future, we’ll face tough decisions.
One such decision was the one I made to step down as CEO of Totsy. As of this week, I am happy to welcome Lisa Kennedy as the new chief executive of the company.
My decision to step down is largely driven by the entrepreneurial passion that led me to found this company with my partners in 2009. Like many entrepreneurs, my true passion lies in building early stage companies and I feel the time has come for me to pursue this passion through other ventures.
I met dozens of potential CEOs in the past months and felt that Lisa was the person we needed. I will stay on until early-May to assist Lisa with the transition and will continue to be closely involved with the company by remaining on the Board of Totsy.
Lisa Kennedy is an exceptional executive and we are privileged to have her join the Totsy team. She was instrumental in the growth of one of the most successful online retailers for moms in the U.S., Quidsi, the parent company of Diapers.com, Soap.com and BeautyBar.com. During her tenure, the company went from less than $30 million of annual revenue to over $300 million and was eventually acquired by Amazon. After leaving Quidsi, Lisa went on to co-found a private sale site for families in India, which is quickly becoming one of the country’s leading online retailers. I am very excited to bring her on board to build an even better Totsy.
Thank you for your amazing support during these past three years. Totsy has given rise to some of the most exciting, challenging and fulfilling experiences of my life. It will always be part of me and I remain passionate about its success. I feel really blessed to have worked with such an amazing team. It was their talent, dedication and professionalism that fueled my inspiration and made TOTSY the company it is today.
This blog officially ends with this post but I will continue my personal blog at www.ggauthereau.com and will look forward to seeing you there.
I recently returned from the 2013 Young Presidents Organization Global Leadership Summit in Istanbul and I’m blown away by the support and creativity that I encountered throughout the weekend. The YPO Summit is a networking and educational conference attended by roughly 2,500 YPO members, spouses, partners and invited guests. The focus of the event is to discuss and explore the issues facing today’s global CEO. Leaders from all different verticals were in attendance, from entrepreneurs to politicians to financiers.
For years, people have been urging me to attend this event, which is connected to one of the most powerful business networks in existence. After a long vetting process, which required that I be recommended by a member and subsequently approved by 3-5 chapter members, I was able to join the YPO Manhattan in November of last year. The group meets once a month for day-long discussions about personal and professional topics. We’re a very tight organization that shares and helps one another in a completely confidential environment. The organization offers a variety of business training and a massive education program that covers almost any subject a CEO would need to learn about.
The Leadership Summit is an absolute blast. Families are invited to attend the event, which makes the large gathering seem quite intimate. Having your family there is great, especially considering that the company you keep during the event can be quite intimidating. More than 20% of the world’s GDP was in attendance, including the CEOs of BMW and British Airways, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
As a member of the organization, I’m bound to a certain level of confidentiality and can’t repeat some of the wonderful things I learned at the event. However, I will say that young entrepreneurs should absolutely get involved with this organization as soon as possible. Hopefully I’ll see some of you at next year’s event.
When’s the last time you did nothing? No thinking. No TV. No work. There are 148 hours in the week: How often do you take 10 minutes of your day to connect with yourself? Most of us work so hard and are so committed to our careers, friends and family we never take the time to commit to ourselves. Would you run a car engine incessantly? Of course not. So why do we do this to our bodies and minds?
Buddhists call the human brain the “monkey brain” because they say it jumps around all the time — from thought to thought and sensation to sensation. Meditation helps tame the jumping. It’ll help you return to the here-and-now in order to observe what’s occurring in your body.
A recent Harvard and MIT study has proven that meditation has physical and mental benefits. However, unlike most medicines and therapy, mediation is free and accessible to everyone.
Some common misconceptions about mediation exist but you don’t have to be a Buddhist to meditate. You don’t have to sit cross-legged and you don’t have to listen to strange music. It doesn’t have to be a spiritual process at all; it can simply be a physical practice that enables you to calm your mind and body.
Meditation has become an incredibly important part of my life and I practice every day, regardless of my schedule. There’s an old Zen Buddist saying that implies that the less time you have, the more you need to meditate. It keeps me grounded and has helped me manage my stress. I suggest doing it for two-to-five minutes every day to get started. Like brushing your teeth, mediation can become a daily ritual that will dramatically improve your life.
For more information on mediation, and how ten minutes a day is all it takes to improve to have a dramatic effect, check out this TED Talk video from my good friend Andy Puddicombe.
Inability to scale, outsourcing, and customer acquisition costs are among the many challenges entrepreneurs face within the first few years of a startup’s operations. A 2012 University of Tennessee study revealed that 25% of startups failed in their first year, 36% failed in their second year, and 44% failed in their third year. With my second startup, Alidoo.com, I joined the ranks of first-year failures within eight months.
Alidoo was the European equivalent of Pets.com — a hub of commerce, content and community for pet owners. Alidoo was founded during the height of the internet bubble. Back then, an average of 311 companies went public each year in the U.S. compared to 102 per year since. This was a great time for internet startups and Alidoo was no different. We raised millions of Euros only 30 days into operations. We went from 0-60 employees in roughly six months, and all of a sudden, we were like celebrities being interviewed on TV. Unfortunately, roughly 60 days after our TV appearance, the dot-com bubble burst and the market crashed. I was 28 years old.
At the time, I thought it was the end of my life. I thought I would never do anything else.
One of the most important life lessons I learned during this time was that as an entrepreneur, you need to be friends with failure. Despite the pain I experienced at the loss of my compnay, this failure gave me everything I had today. Without Alidoo, I never would have gotten my job at LVMH, which was at the time seeking internet entrepreneurs to help their organization innovate. I might not have ever realized my dream to live abroad in the U.K. and then in the U.S. More importantly, it helped me to discover failure at an early age, and it forced me to learn to work through it and eventually even embrace it, no matter how devastating.
I often speak to a lot of entrepreneurs who have a fear of failing and I always tell them to befriend failure. The majority of successful entrepreneurs have experienced failure in some way. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple. Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball coach. Richard Branson’s childhood was filled with failed business attempts.
Even successful startups come across obstacles every day. It’s your team’s ability to quickly work through those obstacles that forms the divide between success and failure.
At the end of Totsy’s first year in business, our warehouse was unable to scale. The holiday season arrived and our logistics center revealed that they didn’t have enough capacity to meet our demand. Unfortunately, the holiday season is the worst time for any product sales organization to be experiencing technical difficulties, and it’s also far from the ideal time to pick up and move to a new logistics center. Our service provider wasn’t being as upfront with us about the trouble we were headed for until it was almost too late. Thankfully, we were able to rectify the situation and continue with our operations as planned, but not without the fallout of some of our valued customers receiving their orders later that what was acceptable. However, without the quick recovery our team achieved, the result could have been far more disastrous, possibly enough to damage the reputation and finances of the company beyond repair.
Whatever your recent failures might have been, I would encourage you to approach these challenges as friends and teachers that can help propel you to future success, as long as you have the ability to draw the right lessons.
Do you have any stories from the trenches you would like to share with us? Let me know in the comments section. Look forward to hearing about it.
With so much content being created each day, it’s getting difficult to find the most valuable information; not just the latest news or the most popular, but news that brings us inspiration that can help get us outside of our daily routine. Here are some of my favorites, including a brief explanation of what each offers and how they benefit me as a CEO and a lover of great content.
PSFK compiles the day’s top 15 stories in technology, retail, advertising, design and commerce. The site, which is fanatically focused on innovation, offers a broad scope of industry-related information. It also goes beyond the traditional scope of business by highlighting creativity and upcoming creative events and conferences.
Netted by the Webbys promotes one new company, service or website each day. Selections are made based on companies the site considers “worthwhile, indispensable, or even life changing.” Between managing our time for careers and family and obligations, we don’t always have time to sift through the internet hoping to discover something cool and useful. Netted by the Webbys does a great job highlighting the companies, services or products that focus on improving our lives and not just the technology we use.
Shft.com is a highly curated website focused on increased sustainability through the lens of how we consume video, design, art and culture. Founded by film producer Peter Glatzer and actor-filmmaker Adrian Grenier (of Entourage fame), Shft.com’s board includes Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, and loads of other inspiring people. The site is broken into sections on architecture, fashion, sports and other topics you wouldn’t necessarily associate with sustainability.
Tiny Buddha’s tagline is wonderful: “Simple wisdom for complex lives.” I think it’s a wonderful venue for tips on healthy living, overcoming change and challenges, and inserting meaning and passion into your life (no matter what that may mean for you personally). Although the blog’s roots are based in Buddhism, the site isn’t focused on preaching or converting. With subjects as universal as 3 Tips to Escape the Perfectionism Trap and Feel Good Enough, it’s the perfect blog to turn to when you need to remain grounded and feel at peace.
The Harvard Business Review is focused on quality analysis of technology, innovation and the overall impact business has on our everyday lives. You’ll find topics as diverse as the role of female leadership in business, the impact of HR decisions, and the day’s juiciest social media scandals. The articles are very accessible and the content is valuable regardless of your level of interest in the international business community or academia.
I also appreciate Mashable, especially for its design update, which includes a live feed that posts new content every five minutes, and a wider layout that enables more art and easier access to articles. Mashable’s content is not only social media-driven, the site’s layout applies the most innovative social media principles to content presentation, including convenient shareability and a live velocity graph that tracks how each article is performing on the web.
These are just the staples of my daily content consumption. I’m always looking to add a few more to the list, so please feel free to shoot over some of your own recommendations.