And more advice from Jessie Gould, Founder of Ox Verte
Ox Verte is a plant-forward food company working to reinvent office meals. At Ox Verte, their goal is to make seasonally-fresh, locally-sourced food an everyday occurrence. They offer wholesome meals to nourish bodies and communities.
1. Don't give employees expectations that everything is set in stone.
Early on in your startup, don't give employees expectations about roles, compensation, and titles that are too concrete or too long. You are not going to be able to deliver on it. You have no idea what the next month or next few months are going to look like. We had a woman working with us on the nutritional side. At the beginning, I was very set on having a nutritionist highly integrated within the organization at every level. Talking with customers about why their meals are healthy as well as doing the nutritional analysis. As the organization evolved, we realized that that role wasn't as necessary. We needed a lot less from her than we thought we would. I had set-up an expectation for a long-term commitment that I ultimately had to completely undo. And, it involved an equity negotiation. My takeaway was that I shouldn't have been so clear about that role before we even started delivering to customers. I think that situation was particularly salient because it involved equity. But, it could have been as easily as small as you bringing in someone to do business development, and it turns out they actually wind up doing operations. That happens all the time in startups. I think the mistake is trying to put in set roles. While structure is very important to be able to give people specific marching orders, I think you need to give them an expectation that anything could change. The employee has to be okay with that kind of ambiguity.
2. Don't give someone equity when you know they are going to want cash.
Don't fool yourself that someone is going to do free work forever. I haven't had that specific experience, but I know a lot of founders who have.
3. Don't just rely on getting customers, profitability comes first.
That to me is the single biggest mistake that one could make in the food industry. You should focus on margin and unit economics. Don't just focus on sales and not unit economics. When businesses go down, it is not like they don't have customers who like them. We focus on Unit Economics every single day. At Ox, we don’t believe margins magically fall in line if your sales are good. We always have a blueprint to follow. We know how much we can spend on packaging and food, which simplifies our daily decision-making process. We build everything to scale. If you are looking to achieve big things, you have to build your business to scale, even when you are tiny. But never, ever start scaling until you know you can profit.