To commemorate Women’s History Month, Spark Business® IQ is shining the spotlight on women who run successful businesses. Throughout March we’ll showcase stories and insights into how these savvy professionals have met and maintained their growth goals.
How Kristina Guerrero Fosters Relationships that Fuel Business Growth
As a business owner who has adapted her business operations from a solo-owned business to a three-way partnership, Kristina Guerrero has a unique take on shifting her own role in her business and maintaining the integrity of her product. She has learned how to allow for growth, as well as how to establish operational communication with her two much larger partners, manufacturer Fetch…for Pets! and celebrity entrepreneur Daymond John.
In 2011 Kristina Guerrero was backcountry skiing with her canine sidekick Dunkan. She stopped for a snack while he stared at her expectantly – after all, he’d been burning calories and working up an appetite, too. During that trip, inspiration took hold and Guerrero had the idea for what would become TurboPUP Complete K9 Meal Bars.
Today TurboPUP is still a woman-run small company in some ways. However, the company has experienced tremendous change and growth following a stint on the hit show Shark Tank in 2015. Guerrero has since partnered with the show’s celebrity entrepreneur, Daymond John, to scale the company from sales around $7,000 annually to about three-quarters of a million dollars.
What was it like having a large investment come into your company? How did you make decisions about your cash flow and where you wanted that investment to go?
The biggest part of the Shark Tank deal was Daymond John becoming a partner in the company. A cash infusion always seems to come at a time where everything goes wrong. At this point in time, I was trying to be very thoughtful of the best way to grow the company. With the help of Daymond, we ended up licensing the company to a bigger company, Fetch, that took on the bulk of the investment. Daymond John helped mentor me through what I should be able to invest in it, how to be strategic about it and to understand the concept of licensing and responsibility of another company.
What challenges have you faced by bringing in partnerships to your business?
When I started the business, I wanted it to be very grassroots, very healthy. I was nervous about working with companies that are bigger and that are used to bigger clientele. Right off the bat, Fetch made very clear by saying, “You have the ultimate decision on everything.”
That was cool. It helped me surrender a little bit. As an entrepreneur, I wanted to control everything. I thought letting go would cost more. But like they always say, “Surround yourself with smart people.” I got to see how having smart people around helped me make these decisions.
I can’t ask one person to be everything for me. The most challenging aspect was probably figuring out who was responsible for what and who to ask for help. I had to figure out how to navigate my way through getting the answers that I needed. And I wanted to be more involved, whereas some people might not necessarily want to be as involved. It’s a growth period, and we’re still working through it.
How did you go about building these relationships? How do you communicate with your team at Fetch to ensure your vision for the company is being upheld?
I’ve learned that I should always be taking initiative. It started with going to a lot of meetings and trade shows to meet more of the team. Now we schedule meetings in advance and create agendas for those meetings. We go in there knowing what we want to talk about, what issues need to be addressed, and whether anything creative needs to be discussed. One of the biggest differences is being available for meetings as often as it takes to get things done.
How do you stand out in such a competitive marketplace?
It’s about the niche – finding the niche and then figuring out what that niche wants. When we came out with snacks, everyone said, “There’s no money in treats.” But I knew that our treats were better, and we could find consumers who agreed. We figure out as a team what’s working and where we are thriving. That’s what we ask during our meetings: What market do we want to be dominating right now? Last I checked, the pet industry is a $52 billion-dollar industry. So it’s about sitting down with the team and figuring out where we want to be placed and what our niche should be.
How has being a woman in business affected your success?
When I first started the business, I wasn’t finding financing. Then I heard about this conference put on by Syracuse University. It’s a military entrepreneur program called V-WISE, which stands for Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. It’s open to female veterans and spouses.
The vibe of the conference I walked into was amazing. I made some great connections there. You take like a hundred women who are dreamers, who want to start a business and have a great idea – it’s amazing the energy that comes out of that. Joining that network is one of the reasons I feel I’m as successful as I am and the business has grown the way it has.
All businesses have ups and downs, days you question why you’re doing it. And I can call a woman from one of those female conferences, and she picks me up. Having that sisterly network of like-minded women entrepreneurs to lean on during the process was one of the biggest, best things that got me through the dark days. It still is. The female entrepreneurs aren’t cut-throat. They want to lift everyone up. Girls rule, and if you join a girl’s group, you’re going to do great.
For more insights on what other successful women in business are doing to manage their businesses, check out our interview with Sandy Abrams.
Learn more about growing your business and find resources to reach your next-level goals.
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