People 14 October 2016
From a very young age, Kirsten Potenza, the co-founder and CEO of Pound, was trying to find a job or make a job out of whatever she could. “From stealing sweet peas from the farm behind the house and selling them to my neighbors to having a shop in the backyard where I sold potpourri that I made,” she says. After college, where Potenza was a Division I athlete at UCLA, she found herself changing careers often, which concerned her mother.
Looking back, Potenza understands her mother’s concerns, but she also sees her experiences as “opportunities to dip our toes in the water and test out different things and learn more about ourselves through exploring different careers.” It was around the time that she met Cristina Peerenboom. “The one thing we had in common was that we were obsessed with music," says Potenza.
"We were both drummers – not in the sense of wanting to be in bands – there was something about drumming that appealed to the both of us. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that when we did it, we left our cell phones behind and escaped.”
Potenza and Peerenboom, who also comes from an athletic background, had group fitness ingrained in their lifestyles since childhood.
Kirsten Potenza, co-founder of PoundFit
“This idea of being fit – and fitness – never really was something we had to think too hard about when we were younger,” says Potenza.
But as working adults living in Los Angeles, “the gym experience didn’t feel super positive to us. It felt like there was a lot of ego.” Cue the light bulb. Why not make their own group fitness class, applicable for any gym? Using Ripstix, lightly weighted drumsticks engineered specifically for exercising, Pound aims to transform drumming into an incredibly effective way of working out."[Working out] didn’t feel enjoyable to us. We felt a spark when we were drumming or experiencing music. I think for most people, music is an escape.” -Kristen Potenza
According to the co-founder herself, the best part of the Pound empire might be the fact that they didn't have to spend too much to get off the ground. “I don’t think we spent any marketing dollars for the first three or four years of Pound," says Potenza. That’s right, the duo spent nothing, and yet they still got Kelly Ripa to publicly give the brand her seal of approval.
Listen to our podcast interview with Kirsten to learn more about what she thinks are the most valuable aspects of growing a business and living a life, and how she grew the venture without a marketing budget.
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.