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Bootstrapping an E-Commerce Startup from Utah: Kuru CEO Bret Rasmussen (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Nov 20th 2020

Sramana Mitra: The product mix is still shoes, right? Because you understand that your customer has foot pain, you are still addressing that customer with just shoes and not any other kind of product. 

Bret Rasmussen: Largely yes. We do have some socks that have some compression technology in them to help support the foot. We also have accessories like shoe cleaning kits. Our big belief is that if we could properly support and give the feet a healthy foundation, then your body can take care of itself.

We believe that mother nature has given you what you already need in your body. Our bodies are amazing machines. The modern world that we live in that throws a curveball at nature. Nature hasn’t evolved for walking on marble floors, concrete, tile, and asphalt.

We try to properly support the foot and give it a natural place to exist, then from there your body can do its job. Since we exist to help eliminate foot pain, the best way that we could do that is through our Kuru sole technology in a shoe. 

Sramana Mitra: In your evolution, when does the company reach $5 million in annual revenue?

Bret Rasmussen: We hit that a while back. A little more than five years ago we exceeded that number.

Sramana Mitra: In 2012, you had $1 million. Then in 2015, you exceeded $5 million?

Bret Rasmussen: Yes. 

Sramana Mitra: Is there another inflection point or strategic tweak on the product side, positioning side, or go-to market that you would like to discuss?

Bret Rasmussen: From a scaling standpoint, there are different phases of growth, evolution, and maturity. Getting a product to market versus scaling it to the first million to getting it to the first $5 million and so forth, different evolutions need to happen.

From a case study standpoint, I think that’s a valuable thing for an entrepreneur to realize because what got you here, won’t get you there. As we continue to scale and grow, it was difficult to keep the company aligned to what are the important things that need to be focused on.

We discovered that sometimes employees and departments in disparate areas weren’t coming together to grow the business. It wasn’t because anyone intended to do that. It was just that everyone felt that the most important thing they should be doing is their respective role.

Getting to the first million is great. It’s fun and inspiring. Getting to the $5 million is like, “Woah, I can’t believe it!” Getting to the next revenue threshold is exciting and fun, but what’s going to get you there and keep your business sound and healthy is alignment. We need to realize that we can’t do it all but instead ask what’s the most important thing that we need to do and then stay focused on that.

One methodology that we adopted is the OKR methodology. It has been effective at aligning us. It forces the conversations to “What’s most important?” We have those conversations and as leaders, we agree on the three or four things that we are going to focus on. We’re still in the process of implementing that methodology, so we are still learning. It’s been an effective and powerful way to keep us focused on that which is most important.

Sramana Mitra: What about financing? Besides the very early seed of financing, have you done other rounds of financing?

Bret Rasmussen: We have not. We have been bootstrapped ever since. 

Sramana Mitra: How much was that early seed round?

Bret Rasmussen: We don’t disclose it as a private company. 

Sramana Mitra: Can you just give me an idea of how much? Is it under a million?

Bret Rasmussen: Yes, it was a small round. The initial raise was half of what I wanted to raise and thought I needed to raise to launch the company. I’ve gone months without a salary. It’s closer to a bootstrapping story than a venture backed one. The seed round is fair, because we had a little startup capital. We were probably one of the least funded shoe startups ever. 

Sramana Mitra: What about teams? What has been the progression of the team? 

Bret Rasmussen: Just like how we aim for a first purchase positive, we have always run lean from an employee standpoint. Once we are stretched too thin, that’s when we hire. That’s the approach that we have taken. We have a product team, a marketing team, a finance team, and a customer support team.

We outsource a lot of our fulfillment, but we do have a local warehouse that we operate as well. We also have factories in Asia and an employee there that helps manage. 

Sramana Mitra: How many people?

Bret Rasmussen: I believe we are just shy of 40. 

Sramana Mitra: Are they all in Utah?

Bret Rasmussen: Most of our employees are based here in Salt Lake City, but we have a couple outside of Salt Lake City. 

Sramana Mitra: Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Bootstrapping an E-Commerce Startup from Utah: Kuru CEO Bret Rasmussen
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