Archive for the '*Gabriela Torres Patiño' Category

Thinking with AND: Insights from KIND’s story

June 24, 2016

“I’m a confused Mexican Jew.” So says Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and CEO of KIND Snack, in his very personal interview with Columbia faculty member David Rogers at BRITE ’16. Their discussion touched on the many ideas behind KIND Snacks, from the beginnings of the company, to the strategic thinking that forces Lubetzky to stay away from false compromises, to his thoughts on brands and purpose.

After studying law at Stanford, Lubetzky had planned to become a Mid-East Peace negotiator, “That was my path and that was my dream and I ended up feeling that the power of business to drive change may potentially be more impactful in bringing neighbors to work together than diplomacy.” As the son of a Holocaust survivor, the common threat in everything he does is, “building bridges between people because that’s my commitment: to prevent what happened to my dad from happening again.”

It was precisely his intention to create business opportunities for neighbors in conflict regions what brought him into the natural food industry. Ten years after his first attempts, he identified the need for a healthy and tasty snack, and KIND was born.

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Lubetzky went on to share some insights on how to maintain creativity when bringing ideas to life: “To challenge conventional wisdom, which says you have to choose between this or that, think creatively and try to do this and that, and make a business that’s both socially impactful and economically sustainable or a product that’s both healthy and tasty. In any such venture there is a tension and you need to use creativity to generate that extra value.”

When asked about KIND’s purpose, Lubetzky explained that he was looking “to have a company that was going to have a social impact and that was going to be economically impactful and successful, combining the social and the business objectives. The social impact [being] inspiring kindness, celebrating kindness, finding a way to increase kindness in society, while also selling healthy snack foods.”

He also warned entrepreneurs that having a social mission doesn’t guarantee success, the product has to shine through for the social mission to be relevant, Lubetzky said. “We need to be careful about assuming that because you have a social mission suddenly things work. Ninety-nine percent of the people [who] have tried KIND bars -or maybe 90%- don’t even know about our social mission. […] It is by design that we lead with our product and our taste. The social mission adds loyalty and meaning to [me] and to [my] team, and hopefully passion to [the] consumers. But the fundamentals have to be there, they’re really what drive the business.”

Watch the full interview with Daniel Lubetzky.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

Can a Company be pro-regulation and pro-commerce? Gregg Renfrew from Beautycounter thinks so

February 19, 2016

It’s the middle of an election year and, according to the Pew Research Center, the country hasn’t been this polarized since the Civil War. In such a climate, it would seem to be an oxymoron for a company to push for both financial growth and tighter regulations. Gregg Renfrew, CEO & Founder of Beautycounter, wouldn’t agree, however, and she is on a quest to “put safe cosmetics into the hands of everyone.”3dfa42f7c2b2ffd9468fd94bec859b22

In 2012, a federal analysis showed that 400 popular lipsticks contained trace amounts of lead. As reported in The Washington Post, “in 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 red lipsticks and found that two-thirds of them contained lead — and that one-third exceeded the FDA’s limit for lead in candy.” Since 1938, when the FDA was given authority to oversee the safety of cosmetics, the agency has enacted almost no regulations on the use of ingredients in cosmetics. In fact, cosmetic labels list known toxins linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption without warning their customers. (The Environmental Working Group has built an extensive database to compare ingredients listed on cosmetic labels with databases on chemical toxicity.)

Before launching Beautycounter, Renfrew had already established herself as a retail leader. Regarded as a serial entrepreneur, she is known for turning concepts into thriving businesses. Prior to founding Beautycounter, she sold her successful bridal registry company, The Wedding List, to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Renfrew also served as CEO for the legendary children’s retail group Best & Co., which she reinvigorated through design, traditional retail, and hundreds of national trunk shows. Renfrew has led new-concept, brand, marketing, merchandising, and operational consulting engagements with Bergdorf Goodman, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson, Intermix, Sugar Paper, Lela Rose, and Jessica Alba, among other high-profile corporate and entertainment clients.

beauty-counter1In an interview with the Huffington Post, Renfrew explained the reason behind her company: “I started Beautycounter because I wanted to create a safer and healthier place for my children, family, and ultimately everyone in the world. My decision to start a company was initially rooted in emotion, but being the serial entrepreneur that I am, it translated into an incredible vision for a business that is filling an existing void in the marketplace.”

Because Renfrew knew that Beautycounter had a story to tell, she decided against creating beauty counter displays in department stores. Instead she committed to an ecommerce platform and selling via independent consultants, thus allowing the company’s mission to be shared online and friend to friend. In addition, Beautycounter strategically partnered with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.com and J Crew.

In the fall of 2015, Renfrew joined a group of industry experts on a trip to Capitol Hill. “At Beautycounter, we are leading a movement for better beauty. We are a company who is pro-commerce and pro-regulation. While we have shipped close to two million products, we know it’s only the beginning – there is a lot of work to be done. We are radically transforming the beauty industry by introducing safer, high-performance products into the marketplace,” said Renfrew.

Join us on March 7-8 for BRITE ’16 and see Gregg Renfrew talk about how Beautycounter is aiming to transform the beauty industry. REGISTER NOW.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

Microsoft’s HoloLens Brings the Digital World Off the Screen

February 9, 2016

In June of 2015, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft presented a demo (below) of what it is like to play Minecraft using HoloLens. The audience was amazed as the digitized world came off the screen and became an overlay on the real world.

Unlike the completely immersive experience of virtual reality, a la Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the HoloLens allows users to combine the physical world with an immersive virtual experience. Google Glass and other augmented reality efforts provide small “windows” on the real world while Microsoft is using holograms to create complete 3D virtual images. The HoloLens also runs all other Windows applications, allowing users not to have to rely on a screen.

Use cases for HoloLens go beyond gaming, as the technology finds a seamless space for the virtual and real worlds to meet, interact, and collaborate. As our BRITE ’16 speaker Scott Erickson, Senior Director of HoloLens, explains in an interview with The Verge, HoloLens provides users with “the ability to walk around, to overlay holographic information and make it contextual to physical objects that are in the [same] space.”

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A very interesting aspect of the experience is precisely the capability to interact with others around you, both those who are using a holographic computer and those who aren’t. Cliff Kuang from Fast Company, explains that “Microsoft has already conducted hundreds of hours of user testing to figure out just how we might interact in this new hybrid reality. They’ve already come up with some very clever interactions, like making your gaze function as a mouse pointer.”

The only reported downside to HoloLens is that the field of vision for where holograms can appear is still limited.

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In early 2016, Microsoft opened up applications for the HoloLens Development Edition, which will ship by the end of the first quarter of the year. With a price tag of $3000 for the kit, it is still unknown what the price of the consumer model will be.

In the meantime, Microsoft is using its Flagship store in NYC to allow developers and a few lucky curious to test the HoloLens.

Join us on March 7-8 for BRITE ’16 and see Microsoft’s Scott Erickson talk about HoloLens and the possibilities of a mixed reality world. Plus, when you register, you will have a chance to sign-up and visit the flagship store to experience the HoloLens yourself.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

 

KIND Snacks: Starting a healthy conversation

December 23, 2015

Daniel Lubetzky had the lofty goal of starting a company both economically sustainable and socially impactful. In 2004, after ten years as a social entrepreneur, he started KIND Snacks. Now valued at more than 700M USD, the company still follows his vision to build a community, a movement, and ultimately a company with the goal of doing the right thing.

It was early in his career, however, when Daniel Lubetzky learned the hard way that a mission does not sell a product, the product sells the product. Back in the early Nineties when he was starting PeaceWorks, Lubetzky methodically walked the streets of Manhattan selling dried tomato spreads. Peaceworks produced Mediterranean spreads and other goods, but Lubetzky’s pitch focused on the company’s model to try to promote peace in the Middle East by sourcing and partnering with companies from regions in conflict — Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesian, and Sri Lanka. He wouldn’t leave a store until they either bought his product or told him what he should do to improve it. Through these interactions with store buyers he realized Middle East peace wasn’t selling the spreads, the spreads were selling the spreads. So, he soon put quality first, even when it was more time consuming and expensive.

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As Lubetzky himself notes in his book Do the KIND Thing, “Yes, increasingly consumers are focused on ensuring that the companies they buy products or services from are genuine members of their communities, doing their part to make this a better world. But that is not a substitute for delivering on the functional merits. First and foremost, the product must stand on its own.”

After a decade of positive press with KIND snacks, it came as a surprise to Lubetzky when the FDA sent KIND a letter this year indicating that four of its bars were in violation of marketing labeling guidelines for the use of the word healthy and the plus sign.

Like many others would do, KIND responded immediately and adjusted its labels. Unlike others, they took the slap on the wrist as a way to start a conversation on what it means to eat healthy and how the FDA guidelines may be misleading. On December 1, 2015, KIND submitted a citizen petition to the FDA, asking the agency to update their requirements related to food labeling in order to reflect a shift in dietary guidelines that focus on whole foods that help achieve and maintain wellness, rather than on specific nutrient levels.

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This move, which if made by a different snack company could look like just another lobbying effort, has been embraced by KIND’s stakeholders as a way of doing something good for the community: aiming to help people recognize and understand distinctions between whole foods and processed, low-fat “healthy” foods. This permission is given because the snack company has built its brand with the hope of spreading kindness. One example of this is the #kindawesome initiative –part of the company’s KIND movement- that is“a little program we cooked up to celebrate kind acts everywhere, spot a kind act, give a KIND snack. On us!” Anyone can send KIND snacks to recognize an act of kindness via twitter, Facebook, or email to people they’ve spotted doing everyday kind things.

See Daniel Lubetzky at BRITE ’16 (March 7-8, NYC) to learn more about his story and KIND.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

New Opportunities for Brands in Africa

September 3, 2014

A PwC’s survey of Global CEOs found that despite 74 percent of respondents expecting to grow their operations in the next 12 months; only 13 percent currently have key operations in Africa. There is ample opportunity for brands to be pioneers in the market.

According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP is estimated to reach 5.2 percent in 2014, while global growth is estimated to rise by 3.7 percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that out of the 20 countries with the highest expected GDP growth in 2014, nine are from Sub-Saharan Africa, with Sierra Leon’s GDP projected to reach 13.04 percent by the end of the year.

Economic growth in the region is fueled by mobile tech: The Ericsson Consumer Lab forecasts that by the end of 2014, “there will be over 635 million [mobile] subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is predicted to rise to around 930 million by the end of 2019.”

Africans are using mobile technology to optimize markets, to improve health care, and to voice their opinions. It is not surprising that Africa’s top two most valued brands are MTN, a South African telecom service company, and Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile operator by subscriber numbers. In fact, MTN is the only African brand to make it to the top 100 list of MillwardBrown’s BrandZ tracker.

Big tech brands (like Google, Nokia, Samsung, IBM, Microsoft and Intel) are not wasting time, bringing more products to market and building research facilities in Africa. In a recent post for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Erik Hersman, co-founder of Ushahidi and founder of iHub -an Innovation hub and hacker space for the technology community in Nairobi-, explained that “big tech companies [are] viewing Africa as the last blue ocean of consumer demand for technology.”

African consumers are tired of being misrepresented and are using mobile technologies and social media to speak up about product performance, customer service, and advertising.

Take the example of Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT). During the 2013 attacks at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, #KOT denounced CNN with the hashtag #someoneTellCNN for reports showing Kenya as a nation in chaos while they were suffering a terrorist attack.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation reports that in 2013, “Sixty-eight percent of Twitter users in Africa relied on the platform as a primary source of information on national news.”

Strategy

When developing a strategy for Africa, it’s important to consider that: 1) word of mouth (empowered by mobile) is the predominant way of communication, and 2) market research in the continent is very limited, making it extremely important to learn about the aspirations of local communities when designing your strategy.

Since many common products are new for local markets, word of mouth — both in person and through mobile platforms — will help brands provide customers with stories to tell about their products, and will give these brands the opportunity to educate consumers on how to use those products.

Gerhard Fritz, Divisional Manager for the Shoprite Group of companies, told PwC : “What works in other parts of the world may not work in Africa. People in Africa have a proud heritage; they don’t take kindly to others coming and telling them what to do. Our perspective is to think of every business as local.”

Building trust is especially important in an environment where shoppers maintain a strong brand consciousness. A 2012 McKinsey survey shows that 59 percent of African grocery shoppers are loyal to their favorite brands, compared to 38 percent who chose the cheapest offer.

Educating customers about the use of new products will make or break your brand. In Nakumatt stores, for example, shoppers tried to put black mascara on their lips because they didn’t know what it was for. Now, according to the Financial Times, the chain is setting up “free nail bars and makeovers to spread the word and tempt new customers for more expensive western brands entering the market, including Revlon and L’Oréal’s Maybelline.”

Understanding how locals are using products will give you clues on how to market to them. Think about the contrasts that are part of the daily life of your customers: from fetching water for their households, to actively using mobile phones to get livestock price updates.

Brands entering or repositioning in Africa will need to pioneer market research efforts in the continent; understand how Africans use mobile technologies and embrace these technologies as part of their strategy; and earn the trust of African customers.

Their strategies should be both global yet hyper-local, and consider partnerships with established brands which will share knowledge of distribution channels and influencers, and how to participate in informal economies.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

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