I’m sure you’ve heard of the success stories of startups like Chobani, Bear Naked Granola or Justin’s who disrupted major categories that had existing, established and well-funded behemoth competitors. There are many reasons why startups with significantly less resources are able to disrupt the big players - some of it is a fearlessness that entrepreneurs embody often born out of necessity and urgency to succeed, some of it is that they are their own core consumer and they live and breathe solving a very specific problem daily and some of it is not having the multitude of constraints established companies are stradled with. But for me, having worked in Innovation for a couple big companies and also having started a little company and spent lots of time with entrepreneurs, the clearest difference is the speed of change and the willingness to pivot. Simply put, they are not afraid of change.  

In the last few years of trend spotting at Natural Products Expo West, I began to noticed startups that radically changed their core packaging each year as they set up their booths at the biggest industry trade show. One great example is GoodOnYa a hydration beverage started by Kris Buchanan, a former US Olympic athlete. Kris has radically changed as she’s learned with a full rebranding to 1051 this year. “We wanted a modern, cleaner look that highlighted what we’re all about and opened us up to more consumers. The new design is edgier and clearly highlights what is most important to our consumers – the sugar, calories and minerals.”

The ability to change, pivot and adapt once in market is a key to many startups fast paced growth. For more established companies I advocate rapid, entrepreneur-inspired innovation design coupled with getting into store sooner with saleable product whose entire purpose it to learn in a real-world, low risk setting. Then being open to adapting or pivoting based on what you hear from shoppers and consumers. Even for those of you who make it a practice to get out of the office and take prototypes to the store floor, it’s still just not the same as getting your product on shelf and then talking to the users and rejecters. You can learn more in one weekend test than in months of internal meetings and paper based testing.

So, my advice is to embrace your inner entrepreneur and find a way to set up live tests to learn. But more importantly, don’t be afraid of change. Be nimble and listen to what you - as in you, in person, really personally pitching and demo-ing the product - hear in-store from consumers choosing to buy your new products.

I’m a big believer in “make a little, learn a lot”. Interested… I’d love to tell you more about how Mission Field can help you create live retail labs

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Since I’m new to Mission Field, here is a bit more about me…

I’ve spent the last seven years steeped in food startups in the Boulder, Colorado community having started my own small food company in 2010 while also working for the last 14 years in Marketing in big CPGs (P&G and WhiteWave Foods). Now as Managing Director at Mission Field, I am thrilled to bring that entrepreunrial lens and passion to Fortune 500 CPG companies looking for growth through innovation.