• Confessions of A Creative Entrepreneur

    Photo Courtesy of Neil Richmond


    Last Thursday, June 1, 2017, the 9th annual Create Festival in Pittsburgh was held at the August Wilson Center. #CreatePGH marked the beginning of the nine-day long Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. The Create Festival included tabling from many up-and-coming companies as well as sessions to attend and learn from entrepreneurs.


    Daniel Alarik, founder and CEO of Grunt Style, held a session to share his story and advice on how he turned his start-up idea into a million-dollar business. Grunt Style is an apparel company that focuses on pride in self, in military and in country. Alarik himself is a former Army Drill Sergeant and over half of his company’s employees are military veterans as well.


    When Alarik first began selling clothing for Grunt Style, he did it right out of his car. He explained that he did not understand the meaning of the word business at the time, but began to teach himself as much as he could in order to bring life to his idea of starting a clothing company.


    For the first three years Alarik struggled to make a profit, and soon realized in order to succeed, he would need to make some changes to the ways in which he was doing business. He started focusing on what successful competitors and other big companies were doing and how it was working. For example, successful companies were launching campaigns through Facebook, which became very successful. They were posting up to four times a day, a tactic that Alarik adopted to improve the sales and spread the word about his company, Grunt Style.


    With these new tweaks, Alarik soon realized that his business was growing and producing a profit.


    He presented a few steps that helped turn his startup into a multi-million-dollar business.


    1. 1. Prove That Your Idea is Viable
      Once your idea is viable, you will notice that sales will create a profit that covers your expense, but also leave you more money that what you started with that month.
    2. 2. The Mom and Pop Shop
      This step focuses on reaching the goal of having a revenue of more than a million dollars a year. Once you are in this stage, sometimes sales begin to stall. This is the perfect opportunity to create new products that customers are buying anyway but would rather buy from you.
    3. 3. Becoming a Mid-Sized Business
      This step entails making revenue of about 5 million dollars a year or more. This transition drives your company out of the startup phase and into the business world. At this point it is crucial to organize and professionalize your growing company. It is important to make sure your employees understand the culture of the company and the standards in which to follow. This eliminates the flexibility that most startups incorporate, leaving employees with less ability to miss work or work from home.


    Daniel Alarik spoke openly and candidly about the ups and downs of growing your business. He highlighted moments in the mid-sized business phase and beyond where the team might be in chaos and sales could be breaking down again. For this reason, it is important to upgrade your team and train them. For Alarik, training is not the act of sitting down and chatting with your mentees. Instead, it is observing what they are doing and calmly telling them what things to change and what not too. If the mentoring process does not work, it is time to let some people go. This includes letting people go who are no longer capable of promoting the growth of your business.


    Alarik even touched on employee dissatisfaction and what to do to create unity in your company. He presented that when running a growing company, you may find employees complain and your methods are not benefitting your company’s performance. As a leader, you feel as though you need to get in there and fix every difficulty your company may encounter, however, it is just as important for you have to step back and trust your team. By getting in the way, you may be slowing your team down and not making permanent fixes.


    Alarik concluded the session by answering questions and providing further advice to audience members who are working on a startup business themselves. The session was inspiring and insightful to follow your dreams and to turn your ideas into reality.


    Alloy 26 was a proud sponsor of this event.