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Midsize to Enterprise: What These 4 Brands Learned Along the Way

By Kayleigh Alexandra, microstartups.org

Taking the leap from midsize to enterprise business is a daunting prospect for merchants. From scaling, to macro-economic factors, to inventory management, growth-related challenges are tricky to manage, and those first few weeks, months, or even years can feel like being on a knife edge.

So if you’re looking to expand your business to enterprise level, it pays to take lessons from the experts. Read on to discover what 4 merchants learned on the journey from midsize to enterprise.

Andy Dunn: don’t bite off more than you can chew

Today, Andy Dunn’s Bonobos is a multi-million dollar company owned by the multinational retail corporation Walmart. It is the biggest US clothing brand to ever be launched online.

But getting there wasn’t easy. Bonobos was borne out of a simple idea: the desire to provide well-fitting trousers for men. It was a solid idea, and Andy put in hours of work to create a great product that customers loved.

However, in his search for rapid growth, Andy got desperate. Bonobos slashed prices by up to 60% and hammered his leads with upselling emails and newsletters to boost sales.

While this might have worked for another brand, Bonobos’ website was unable to handle the surge in traffic. Customers started complaining, and Andy was forced to take his store offline while he searched for a fix.

Eventually, Andy was able to get his store live again and start accepting orders. Sales grew, and Bonobos skyrocketed into the huge brand it is today.

What you can learn from them

The lesson from Andy’s story is clear: don’t reach for more until you’re capable of delivering. If you’re growing your business, ensure you have the necessary infrastructure to support it.

From your web hosting and marketing automation to your inventory management and order fulfillment logistics, your growth is supported by a network of software. Reach for the stars, by all means, but always ensure you have the requisite systems to support you.

Oscar Muñoz: keep your eye on the horizon

Oscar Muñoz is the founder of Green Glass, an inspiring business that transforms old glass bottles into beautiful drinkware. Today, it has 20 employees (many from Oscar’s own family) and is well on its way to hitting the million-dollar mark.

But it wasn’t smooth sailing to get there. During the 2008 financial crisis, the business started to falter. Orders slowed, production stopped, and finances became strained.

There was nothing Oscar could do but wait. But he persevered and eventually, orders picked up again. This was not as a result of a lightbulb moment though—the financial crisis just eased and people started spending again. Today, Green Glass continues to grow, and Oscar is better prepared—and stronger for the experience.

What you can learn from them

In Oscar’s own words: “That thing, I think, that kills most entrepreneurs is the uncertainty and seeing that what you’re doing is not working. You have to be willing to try and try and try and try, and make it work—your food depends on that thing.”

While Oscar didn’t quite reach insolvency, many merchants do. Indeed, bankruptcy is almost a rite of passage for merchants—50% of startups fail in their first year, no small amount.

But it’s not the end—you can rise from the flames. And the evidence is there to prove it. For example, the entrepreneur Gary Nealon built an eight-figure business after liquidating his previous business. No matter how bad things get, you can rise again.

Don’t let an inability to see success ahead of you prevent you from putting in the work in the here and now. It might be disheartening, but a low period is no reason to give up completely. Just batten down the hatches and keep at it—if you believe in the opportunity in your business, chase it.

Ben Chidiac: don’t be afraid to change

Beard & Blade is Australia’s premier suppliers of high-quality shaving and beard care products for consumers. But as sales grew, so did its reputation, and founder Ben Chidiac found himself with wholesale orders from a range of retailers who wanted his products.

Ben originally launched Beard & Blade on one leading ecommerce platform, and while this platform worked well for his B2C retail store, Ben found he needed something that could also handle his new wholesale storefront.

In March, Ben migrated to another platform that gave him greater control over his two growing storefronts. He was able to create a multichannel ecommerce system and manage both B2C and wholesale channels from a single storefront.

Since the migration, Beard & Blade has transformed into a multi-million dollar brand that sells around the globe. It’s success fostered by tech and provides a valuable lesson for merchants.

What you can learn from them

Changing your business infrastructure can be a daunting experience. But as you grow from midsize to enterprise, it’ll become necessary to change and upgrade your systems. Multichannel selling software that helped you grow from solopreneur to a midsize business has its place, but to expand further you may need to find systems that facilitate a different kind of growth.

Whether it’s re-platforming like Beard & Blade, or simply upgrading your social accounting automation software, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. Do your research and plan a migration strategy that minimizes the impact on your day-to-day business, and you’ll enjoy smoother growth as a result.

Dechen Yeshi: even yaks can affect inventory management

Dechen Yeshi is the founder of Norlha Textiles. You might recognize her products, but from under a different name—her luxury designs were previously sold by high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès.

Today though, Dechen sells her goods under her own name, launching the Norlha Textiles enterprise to sell scarves, pullovers, beanies, and more under her own brand.

But this was no easy task. Inventory management is a struggle for many businesses, but especially so for Dechen. Norlha Textiles products are made from local yak wool, but rather than shearing it off, Dechen waits for the yaks to molt naturally. This means her raw material supply is frequently changing and can only be purchased once a year in bulk.

Rather than negatively impacting her sales, however, this complicated process gives her brand a sense of exclusivity. The demand for her high-end products exceeds supply and gives her brand a sustainable but fashionable feel that carries it as a business.

What you can learn from them

As your business grows from an midsize into an enterprise, the problems you face will scale with it. But these don’t need to be paralyzing—creative approaches to business issues can help your brand explore new avenues of growth.

Expanding your operation from midsize to enterprise is tough—there are no two ways about it—but it’s not impossible. Take some inspiration from those who have been there and build an enterprise backed by hard-won experience.

Micro Startups is your online destination for everything startup. We’re dedicated to spreading the word about hard-working solopreneurs and SMEs making waves in the business world. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe @getmicrostarted.

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