Jer’s Chocolates: The Story Behind Leaving IBM To Sell Chocolate (Millions Of Dollars Worth) – with Jerry Swain

How does a guy who left IBM end up running a chocolate company that does millions in revenue?

Jerry Swain is the founder of Jer’s Chocolates, which offers unique gourmet chocolate gifts.

I’ve invited him on here to tell the story of how he built up the company. And how he went from being a guy who basically knew nothing about the industry to where he is today.

Watch the FULL program

Jerry Swain, Jer's Chocolates

Jerry Swain is the founder of Jer’s Chocolates, which offers unique gourmet chocolate gifts.

 

Raw transcript

Mixergy's audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Coming up if you ask your father for advice on what company you

should launch what would he tell you? Listen to the advice today’s dad gave

him. I think it just might help you. Also, I can’t tell you the name that

today’s guest picked for one of his products because I think I’m going to

make it sound bad, but when you hear it I’m curious to hear your feedback

on it and what you think of that name. Also, wait till you hear about the

email that was like a knife to the heart of today’s guest. If you’re an

entrepreneur I bet that if it hasn’t happened to you yet, something like

this will happen to you in the future. I want you to draw power from that

story and that part of this interview. Stay tuned for all that and so much

more coming up.

Three messages before we get started first, do you need web design work? Go

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of last minute projects at Mixergy. Now second, do you need a lawyer who

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what are the big challenges that you have as a founder? Go to

MixergyPremimum.com and take courses taught by proven entrepreneurs who

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Let’s get started.

Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of

Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How does a guy who left IBM end

up running a chocolate company that does millions in revenue? Jerry Swain

is the founder of Jer’s Chocolates, which offers unique gourmet gifts. I’ve

invited him on here to tell the story of how he built up the company. How

he went from being a guy who basically knew nothing about the industry to

where he is today. Jerry, welcome.

Jerry: Thanks. Andrew. I appreciate it.

Andrew: So, millions in revenues is what our research says, what are the

numbers? How much in revenue did you guys do last year?

Jerry: We’re a private company. We actually have a gag order on us right

now so I can’t share that with you, but it’s significant enough to have a

nice staff, growing company, and it’s taken us awhile to get here. I will

say we’re under $10 million, I can tell you that.

Andrew: Okay. Our research here said up to $10 million as of 2011. I know

you’re not going to say anymore than what you’ve said already, but I’ll let

my research stand and what you’ve said stand. So, like I said in the intro,

came a long way let’s find out how you got here. You were at IBM and when

you got to IBM you discovered a territory that was, that was what? What was

it like?

Jerry: It was very interesting. I was very fortunate to come into IBM right

out of college. And our branch manager said, “Listen, I know you’re new,

but there is a territory out in the desert that hasn’t produced for 18

years, to be honest with you, you’re low net man on the totem pole and

that’s the territory you’re going to get.” So, it was an interesting

challenge that came up. Everybody else that was on my team really didn’t

have a desire for this particular territory. It had 18 years of failure and

he put me out there. So I looked at it as a challenge, and it was one of

the first times that I felt that I had really liked the challenge of

building something. And so I’d gone out and it was in the desert and I was

actually commuting a little over 200 miles per day, if you can believe it?

I was going back and forth to the territory getting up early. And I had

come into a territory that had just been dormant. It had a very interesting

feel to it. There wasn’t a lot of big business out there. So I had to reach

into our bag of tricks at IBM to see what potentially would work. I was

able to bring in a lot of consultants into the territory, really cut my

teeth learning about lots of things down there, but with a good support

from folks in IBM and business partners was able to turn the territory into

a very profitable territory. And it became a sought after territory after

about a year or two.

Andrew: All right. You know what? If this was like a (?) biography or

Discovery, or even CNBC they would just leave it at that and there would be

this great aura about you. This is a guy that turned around a dying or just

stagnant market. What I want to understand here at Mixergy is how you did

it. In fact, let’s go back and understand the psychology of IBM. Wouldn’t

they, if they had a new sales person, say let’s give him something that he

can accomplish? Sales that he can really warm up with and feel his

confidence grow and then take that confidence and unleash it on a new

territory. Why did they decide to send you out and almost let you fail?

Encourage you to fail?

Jerry: I can’t speak exactly, but being in the IBM culture, the one thing

that was wonderful about them is they gave you incredible training. Went

through a good 6 to 12 months of training with great folks, great

instructors and they tried to prepare you as best they could to go out

there.

Andrew: How? What did they do that prepares you in those months?

Jerry: We had sales training school back in Atlanta, and what we had was

anywhere from two to three weeks of pre-intense structured material. A lot

of it was learning how to call on a Fortune 500 company, being a

consultative sales person, doing a lot of role playing. Failing there. They

wanted us to fail as much as we could there so we could learn from that

experience, not throw us out without any training, into the world, per se.

Andrew: Can you tell me about one or two of the techniques that they taught

you that stuck with you and that you role played a little bit so that you

could get comfortable with?

Jerry: It’s engrained in my head. We have something called a customer

tailored sales call, and it was a six step process from establishing

rapport to somebody to closing a sale, whether it be a sale, or a meeting.

Obviously, some sales are within a day and some of them can take a couple

of years, and it took you through each of those processes and dissected

every single piece of it, knowing that you’re not going to follow a script

when you go on a sale, but to at least know in your head what the compass

was, what the agenda was, as far as following a sale.

Andrew: How do you build rapport with someone? I face that everyday. You

and I never met each other. We’re on camera. I want you to feel comfortable

with me, so that you deliver the goods and I deliver the goods for you and

the audience. I don’t know how to do it in a second. I think I’m learning

it. I’m getting better, but what did you learn? I want to be able to use

it.

Jerry: The techniques that they shared, that don’t always work, of course.

The one thing about humans is we’re not logical, we’re emotional beings, so

there’s a little bit different play in there, but they taught you things as

far as comfort. There’s the non-verbals. There’s the smiling. There’s the

eye contact. There’s your posture. All those types of things of the neuro-

linguistic part of it. Then there’s the open ended questions that you can

ask. “How was your day” is a close ended question. “Tell me what you did

today,” is an open ended question. To get the persons talking about

themselves typically would establish better rapport than, in a sense, going

in as another sales person might and just talking about themselves right

off the bat.

Andrew: Past guests here have told me that they do that in sales calls, of

course. They get to know the person, and I called myself out, in past

interviews, for, as soon as I get on, I’m all business, whether it’s a

phone call with a client, or a phone call with an interviewee, or just

getting ready here to do an interview. I just get right into the business,

and I learned. “You got to ask people about their day. You want to warm

them up before you get into business.” I did the same thing that you

learned not to do, which is I asked you as soon as we got on, “How’s your

day going?” Then you said, “It’s going well,” and then you took a little

initiative and you went beyond it and you shared some of what you were up

to, but I should have said, “What were you up to today?” That’s what I

should have done to get you to open up and tell me the story of the last

few hours of your life.

Jerry: I’m a little bit easier subject than most, but when you go out there

and you make a sales call, I think there’s an automatic posturing going on,

stereotypically, between a buyer and a seller. The buyer, in many cases,

will say, “It feels like they’re on the pedestal,” like, “I command this

meeting. I’m going to make the decisions and you’re going to have to earn

it from me.” A real good partnership, a good customer/vendor relationship

is more collaborative. I try to go into it that way and not put myself

lower or higher than the buyer, but try to get on the same playing field

with them. Trying to understand their business, what the needs are.

Even coming into the chocolate business, I’ve had some comments back and

people that are shocked. I’ll say, “Our product isn’t for everybody and it

may not be a fit for you, but I’d like to understand a little bit more

about your business and, if it is a fit, I’ll tell you a little bit more

about it.” That takes some people a little bit because they’re used to

somebody putting a box of chocolates, or a bottle of beer in their face and

trying to sell something. That’s what I think IBM did to help prepare their

folks to go out into the field. Then they want you to earn it. There’s

folks that I was peers with that had worked very hard to earn their way up

to one of the more elaborate territories, one of the more high yielding

territories. I think that’s what they want to do. They want you to earn it

and they’re OK. They want you to succeed, but if you fail, I think they

have always had a good pipeline of people that are willing to step in.

Andrew: They trained you and they said, “We’re going to send this guy out

there and he’s going to prove himself, or we’ll find somebody else who

can.” Months of training, you go out there, what do you do? Can you be more

specific about how you took this desert that wasn’t producing sales, that

for 18 years, as I understand it, didn’t produce? What did you do? Be as

specific as you can.

Jerry: When I went out there, I just tried to find out what was going on in

the territory. We had a systems engineer out there, which is your technical

support person that worked out in the desert. He was there all those years

and I tried to understand what worked. What didn’t work? Who the customer

base was. The opportunity he thought was out there. At the time, he didn’t

have a whole heck of a lot to say. He was really just doing maintenance on

current accounts. I started researching who were the larger businesses in

that area, and I started to try to get appointments with them to find out

what their needs were as a business. A lot of people may think IBM sells

hardware, but they do a lot more than that. They create solutions for

companies, and even today, more so than when I was there, they’re really

about a services company. I would try to go in, find what those customers’

needs are, and what I found out is that the size of the companies didn’t

warrant the big mainframe computers and even some of the mid range

computers. Maybe some of the entry level, mid range, more PC network based

type of solutions with software solutions.

As I qualified and tried to find out budgets, I think the reason it failed

down there is because in our New Business Unit at IBM, everything was

focused on this mid range to large computer network and it was trying to

shoe horn a solution in that didn’t work in that territory. The more I

learned, the more I realized that this is a bigger networking opportunity,

smaller profile software, and I had to go out through my IBM resources and

find out who those were. If I was dealing with construction, or healthcare,

or transportation, or any of these industries, there were solutions for

them out there, but these aren’t customers that were going to buy a half

million dollar software solution, they were looking for a $50,000 software

solution.

Andrew: This is really interesting for me to hear. I’ve heard this from

past entrepreneurs who’ve said, “To figure out what my business is, I have

to call up potential customers and hear where their frustrations were. Hear

what was bothering them and was so painful that I could solve it.” Then

they built the solutions. You did the same thing at IBM. I’m wondering how

you got in the door. You told me that you look for the biggest clients, the

biggest opportunities. How’d you get in the door, and then how’d you get

them to tell you that this is what they needed?

Jerry: That’s a great question. Some of them were very open. The nice thing

about having an IBM badge is there’s some credibility there and it’s a

little bit easier to get in the door than, perhaps, some other places. I

think I had that going for me. The other thing is I created a relationship

with the publisher of the Desert Business Journal down there, became

friends with them, as I was looking to get our name out there and create a

presence. The team that created the Desert Business Journal knew all the

players in the industry and, through a warm connection, I was able to

connect with a lot of these other companies.

Andrew: I’ve also asked past guests, “How do you figure out what pain your

customers are having?” because if you ask them what pain they’re having,

they’re going to give you all kinds of random issues, or they’re going to

start giving you solutions, and that’s not their job. They give you

convoluted solutions instead of letting you come up with ones that really

address the problem. How did you pull that information out of them?

Jerry: It wasn’t easy. At the time, I was fairly young and I was doing my

best to extract that from them, but again through the questioning

techniques, you’re right. Depending on the particular person, they may give

you different types of feedback, but what I always used to do, if I

couldn’t get out what their pains were, like you referenced, I always tried

to use the same questions, like, “If you could wave a magic wand, what

would you want to happen?” Put it in that high level perspective. Pull away

all the details out of their head, a little bit, and say, “Create the

landscape of what you would want right now and what that would be. Don’t

think about your budget. Don’t think about all these other things.” A lot

of times it would open up and you would find things out and I think

sometimes they would find some things out that they didn’t realize were

some of [??] pains.

Andrew: For example, what kind of answer would you get to the magic wand

question? By the way, for anyone who tuned in just because they want to

hear the story of chocolates, I promise you, I’m going to show you how Jers

built up with this kind of level of detail. If you’re just into the sweet

part of this, and you’re just into quick, fun conversation, maybe what you

could do is, as we’re having this in depth conversation, just go to

jers.com and look at the chocolate and see where we’re going with this

interview. I can’t let go of the details. I can’t make this a quick

conversation where everything sounds like it all happened easily. What was

one of the answers to the magic wand question that led you to understand

them better?

Jerry: It’s funny because a lot of times when you ask that question you get

some interesting feedback that is completely unrelated to the business.

One, in particular, I shouldn’t mention the customer, but the individual

was opting for a new position at the company. They were trying to move to

another department and what they wanted to do is leave the legacy where

they went to help them politically, internally. They didn’t say this

directly, but I found out that they were trying to create some type of

solution, but show an under budget number going into the end of the year.

As you start talking about solutions for the company, what was best for the

company, although that was important, their personal focus seemed to be,

“I’ve got to show in the black. I’ve got to show some type of solution.” My

solution, that I was presenting, didn’t really work with that, so it helped

us talk more about budget, what that number was, what we could do in the

interim to help this person through. Interesting things like that, that you

just would never think would be part of the buying process.

Andrew: We always say entrepreneurs are like rock stars, but meanwhile, we

don’t treat them like rock stars. We don’t really go into how they did it

with the level of detail that, say, a Rolling Stone would go into a rock

star’s. I heard Joe Walsh talk about “Rocky Mountain Way” on Howard Stern

with a level of detail that was like a scientist. Exploring where the idea

came from. How it became a song and so on. I want that for entrepreneurs

here. More importantly, if you hear how “Rocky Mountain Way” happened, how

that song came about, you’re not going to go and write the next rock song,

but here, you listen to an entrepreneur tell you how he made a sale.

I bet you, if you’re in any kind of business, you’re going to be able to

use this and you’re going to be able to come back and say, ‘You know what?

It’s that guy Jerry Swain. I heard him talk about it and I used it. It

worked.’ That’s what I care about in my audience’s life, not some strange

musician’s life, or a stranger who happens to be a musician. I see what

happened. You went through this mindset to where you said, ‘I’m going to

think about this like an entrepreneur,’ because?

Jerry: I had to. The support mechanism where I was at, IBM, was really

focused on the mid range to the large computer systems, and to get that

support for the smaller solutions, was a lot more challenging, and I had to

dig through it. Obviously, I wanted to prove myself at IBM, but the energy

that was instilled in me going through a building process for this

territory not only was challenging, but was fun. I liked it. I can

reference a few things even when I was younger that gave me those creative

juices that I would have never thought of, but after doing something when I

was ten years old and then 17 years old and now 22 or 23 years old, this

was the map that was creating for me that I would be an entrepreneur some

day, or desire to be an entrepreneur.

Andrew: What was it? Can you give me an example of something you did at

ten, or 17, or back when you were young, that led to this?

Jerry: When I was ten, I was really into baseball. I played the Little

League, and all that. I loved collecting baseball cards. At the time,

baseball cards started to become tradable and there was some value to it,

and this is when the big upswing of trading cards started to come together.

There were really Topps Baseball Trading Cards and a couple of other folks

came into the business because they wanted to get into the action. I

started researching that, and I used to trade with my friends and I

remember having a paper route and meeting more friends and we’d do trades

and then I would put an ad in the newspaper, obviously, way pre-internet

here, but put a little ad in the newspaper, spend $7 on that and sell some

of my cards. Cards that I was able to trade for a nickel or .10 cents or

.20 cents, I was able to sell them for $10 and $15 and I realized, as a

young boy, that I could make a little extra money, although my parents

tried to help me out with stuff, I had to buy a bike.

I had to do a lot of different things for myself, so I really enjoyed

creating that little system of building a small little teeny, teeny

baseball card empire on my three block neighborhood. Even a little bit

later, we had fundraisers at school. We were selling posters. We were

selling wrapping paper, the typical fundraisers for school. I remember

going out there and the big prize was this little boom box stereo and I

wanted that. So I tried to get creative so one of the posters had a parrot

on it for whatever reason, so I was thinking creatively and I realized that

one of the big country clubs in the area there mascot was a parrot. So I

went over there and I sold a ton of these wrapping paper and calendars and

posters and stuff and ended up winning this little boom box. So, but those

are the types of things that I’ve always, I didn’t think about it at the

time, but when I look backwards the things, the adrenaline that I got was

from creating something or building something. I think this IBM thing,

credit to them for putting me in a territory that got those juices flowing

for me.

Andrew: All right. You turned to your dad as you were looking for the next

business. What did you tell him and what was his advice?

Jerry: Well, this was fast forwarding a little bit. I was home at Christmas

time with my folks and my sister, dad, and I were talking and I said, I’ve

been through a big business. I’ve been through a medium-sized business and

I really feel the desire to try something on my own for a variety of

reasons. He said, “What is it that you (?) do?” And I started talking a

little bit more.

Andrew: I’m sorry, he said what? We lost the connection for a moment.

Jerry: Yeah, he says, “Well, what is it that you like to do?” And as I

started speaking a little bit longer, he says, “Let me stop you there.

You’re telling me what you want to do. Tell me what is it you like to do.”

And that made me stop for a moment and think about it because I was, I was

telling him my ideas of what I thought would be a good business versus what

he was trying to focus me on, what is it that I like to do as a person

whether it be work, fun, whatever it may be. And as I started speaking to

it I said I like to be closer to the customer. In a lot of ways as I grew

at IBM I became further away from the customer and more involved with

management. I said, I love consumer products. I love the fascination of the

marketing and the branding behind it. I think it would be really fun to do

something like that. I do a lot of philanthropy. I was doing a lot of

volunteer work. I would love to incorporate that into business.

As I started speaking to this, he’s the one who said, “Have you thought

about chocolates?” And I said, not really, maybe it’s crossed my mind a few

times, but it’s not something I have experienced it. And as we talked a

little bit further and we talked about what it is that I enjoy doing versus

what I wanted to do, the seed was stuck in my head there for awhile and it

was, I would go to sleep with it and it would bug me. Like maybe, I should

look into this because it (?) a lot of the things that perhaps I like to

do. But the fear was, my experience wasn’t high tech for such a long time

to start all over again was very fearful for me.

Andrew: I want to find out how you did when you started all over, but just

to make sure this is the part I got out of what your dad said. I would do

what you did, which is to say, what I like to do is run a software company

and then build it up to, and just talk about where the software would

start, who would service it, and so on. But if someone were to stop me the

way your dad stopped you and said, “What do you like to do?” I would of

said, all I want to do — this is years ago before Mixergy — I would of

said, all I want to do is read biographies of successful people. See how

they did it. Find a way to understand the key ideas there and then maybe,

definitely talk about it with someone over drinks but maybe find more than

just one person at a time to talk bout. And that distinction of what do you

like to do? What really fascinates you versus where would you like to be

and all that is huge for me. So I wanted to make sure to spend some time

and point that out to people. All right, he helped you recognize, hey you

know what, maybe this chocolate thing is, and this chocolate thing had been

in you for awhile. Where did it start and how did it develop?

Jerry: Yeah. Well, it’s very interesting. It’s all in a sense by accident.

The first time I ever made a chocolate-peanut butter ball was back in

college. I was assistant director of the dorm so I had a bunch of the

resident assistants, RA’s, working for me and it was right before finals in

December, before Christmas break, and we had a meeting at my apartment and

I decided to have a potluck. Well, I love sugar and I love deserts so I

certainly assigned myself for desert. So when I was at Thanksgiving with my

folks for no particular reason, I opened up a recipe book and I made a

chocolate-peanut butter ball and I brought them back to my staff. Well, as

you can imagine, you can’t make a yield of 15 of these, you have to make

about 80 to 100 peanut-butter balls in a batch. So, I made a bunch and I

brought them back and it doesn’t take much for people to like something

sweet, of course, and everybody really enjoyed the peanut butter balls and

with the other peanut butter balls, I took them to other areas of campus I

was involved with, one of them being my fraternity.

The funny pun that all my friends go back to is, my fraternity brothers

coined them “Jers Balls.” It was a campus of 10,000 people, was UC

Riverside, that was the thing. They would go around campus and say, “Hey.

Have you had Jers Balls?” It was a really funny, funny thing. It actually

happened over a three year period, so the following year, my friends, at

Christmastime, said, “Are you going to make the Jers Balls?” That’s really

how the chocolates actually started. After that, I didn’t think anything

else of them. I [??] for IBM and a couple of my friends said, “Are you

going to make the Jers Balls again?” I said, “I will. Let’s have a party.”

The second Saturday of that December, we had a party. The party was so fun

that for over the next nine years, the party grew to about 200 people.

People were flying in from all over the United [??] States for the party. I

had to move it out of my residence to a hotel, so there was dinner and

dancing and around 10:00, 10:30 in the evening, we would bring out the

chocolate peanut butter balls. My friends called the party Jers Ball. We

played about it a lot.

The nice thing is with my philanthropy, the last several years of the

party, I made the party into a fundraiser for the food bank. It was great.

It was great friends, great fun. It was for a great cause and it ran a ten

year course. That’s really how the whole idea of enjoying making something,

sharing it with friends, doing a little philanthropy in there, came to be,

but I never, during those years, thought of it as being a consumer product.

For me, it was a way I was giving back to my friends and getting people

together.

Andrew: The name is still there. I was on your website up to a second ago

when I had to turn it off because I was worried Chrome was stealing

bandwidth from our Skype connection. It’s right there on the left margin.

It’s stuck, and it’s still fun, and what I’m wondering is, how did you get

so many people to come to your event?

Jerry: I don’t know. I think it’s a post-college type of thing. You’ve got

friends and you ask them to come and they bring a date, or whatever it may

be. It started off, probably about 70, 80 people because it was close to

college. I think because the party was so fun, it was at the right time of

the year and it was pre-family. We’re in our early to mid 20s. I think it

elicited a lot of response to the party for people to come out. It really

built on itself. People had such a good time, they told everybody else and

the network started getting out there, and one of the reasons it lasted ten

years is because it was at the right time and people were willing to do it.

I started traveling a lot. People started having families and then it ran a

great course.

Andrew: When it was time to launch a business based on this passion that

started out back when you were in school, what’s the first thing that you

did to do that?

Jerry: I started going to some trade shows. I wanted to go to some

chocolate and gourmet food trade shows. I didn’t even know they existed,

but they do.

Andrew: Before you even launched a business, incorporated, you said, ‘I

want to go to trade shows.’ Why?

Jerry: I wanted to learn from people that are in the industry. There was

only so much research I could gather from online, or from other research

areas, at the time. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and going to a

chocolate show is [??] the first thing I’d gone to and I remember like

yesterday. I went to one of the booths and one of the chocolate reps there

said, I told him I was thinking about starting a company and he says, “Are

you looking at using compound chocolate or [??]?” I’m like, “I have no idea

what you’re talking about.” It was the most basic of questions, if you’re

in the industry, to know, but I realized how much I didn’t know and how

much I needed to learn. I spent a lot of time trying to learn, trying to

[??] a little bit.

Andrew: Trying to find what out? Apologize, but we missed it. Trying to

find what?

Jerry: Trying to find out more information about the industry. How to

launch a consumer product. All the differences between going to a retail

versus wholesale. All those different angles.

Andrew: What I’m wondering is, when you saw all those people at the show

who had established businesses, that alone would be intimidating, but then

when you heard what you didn’t know, the basics of chocolate making, the

basics of the business, why didn’t you say, ‘You know what? They’re so far

ahead of me right now that I can’t enter this space. I’ve got to go and

find something brand new.’ Why’d you stick with it?

Jerry: A lot of things. Probably [??] discover is part of it, but I wanted

to do something that was different. I didn’t want to be a me . . .

—- 7 of 13 —-

Jerry: I wanted to do something that was different. I didn’t want to be a

me-too product. I wanted to find a niche product. The chocolate peanut

butter ball that we created was a niche because there was nothing gourmet

in the industry on the peanut butter and chocolate list, was primarily [??]

the lower end [??] chocolate. The [??]. I think I would have been [??] more

intimidated going out there and seeing a lot of people that had the same

product that I did. A lot of the industry is established businesses that

are third and fourth generation family, over 80, 100 years old. They’re

established, that are good businesses with good product, and the fact that

I was able to go in with a non-competing product and to try it to see if it

worked, allowed people to have a more open conversation with me. I think

also allowed me not to get so sidetracked on what other people were doing,

that ‘They’re bigger and they’re going to squash me,’ at the time.

Andrew: Then you had to create your own product and get it out to

customers. How tough was it to create your own product?

Jerry: It’s very difficult. You start utilizing industry ingredients, which

are different from what you buy at the grocery store. Much better

ingredients, but from the fact of securing [??] and getting it to have

shelf life. We do an all natural product, so we wanted to keep the

integrity there and then finding the packaging component of it, again, was

all new to me. I don’t know how many mistakes I made a day and, looking

back, what it took me three years to, I could probably do in three months

now, but it was the [??] that went through it, especially on packaging

because packaging is such a huge component of the product.

Andrew: It was three years of researching the equipment, the ingredients,

the ability to keep it on the shelf for longer than a few hours. It was all

that stuff. What about customers? How much time did you spend talking to

potential buyers?

Jerry: The first couple of years I was in with one toe, or one foot, I

should say. It wasn’t until 2004 when I jumped in with both feet. I can

share a little bit about that, but for me, it was, I built a website, so

there was someplace to purchase the product. We had a couple of local

stores that had picked us up, but nothing in significant volume. We also

had one product that was a gift box, so we were very seasonal. I was doing

some consulting work to feed the company and feed myself during the time

frame and then it wasn’t until we landed one or two bigger customers in

2004 when I jumped in with both feet. It was several years of just poking

around at it. Not wanting to crash and burn.

Andrew: Is that when that email came from your friend? The one that you

still have a copy of?

Jerry: Yeah.

Andrew: What did that email say?

Jerry: It was interesting. It was a little bit before ’04. I had just sent

out an email to a bunch of friends and said that I had left the high tech

industry to explore a chocolate company and the website was up, so I wanted

to send a link to all my friends. Then I got an email back where it was to

me and probably about 30 other people, mutual friends, from a person that I

knew in college, and it said something to the effect of, “Hey guys. I once

knew this guy that was a super star at IBM and was this and that.” He

listed a bunch of nice things. He goes, “Now look what he’s doing.” It was

just one of those things that was so derogatory, and it was so obvious what

his message was, it’s like, “This guy is a fool.” [??] the way it came

across to me, but the way it came across, it was crushing. As you try to

surround yourself with folks that are supporting you, here’s a guy that

just had to broadcast out there saying, “This guy’s a fool for doing what

he’s doing.”

Andrew: I’ve seen people get stuff like that and it just works at their

brains. They can’t let it go. It starts to define them. It starts to build

up into this big questioning monster in their head that they can’t out

think. For you, it didn’t do that. Why not?

Jerry: I thought about it. Believe me. It did wear on me because as you

probably know, Andrew, being an entrepreneur and starting a business is a

very humbling experience. Especially when you’re coming from, perhaps,

something that you were very knowledgeable and people revered you as an

expert at. [??]. I just tried to focus myself on hanging out with people

that were supportive to distract myself from that. You find out fairly

quickly that the people that want you to succeed, that want to be there for

you, that want to support, whether it’s words or actions or whatever it is,

those are the folks I tried to hang out with as much as I could. That

helped me distract from that scarring email that came across.

Andrew: For me, I had a couple of people, there’s one right now that’s

coming to mind, who said something similar and I used it to just fire me

up, to say I’m going to prove this person wrong. I can’t even think of the

guy’s name right now. I’d love to look him up on Facebook, but I can’t

think of his last name. But it fired me up. It kind of helped. Did that

happen to you, too?

Jerry: Absolutely. Sure. You want to prove somebody wrong. I mean, going

back to IBM, I remember every month they would come out with the top rep

and the bottom rep, and their attainment as far as new business, and it was

just a harsh reality. The funny thing was, let’s say there was 300 reps on

there for that territory, everybody always looked at the top 5 and the

bottom 5. If you’re in the middle, nobody saw your name. I remember the

first report that ever came out, I was at the very bottom. I remember

keeping that report and I posted it up in my cubicle because I wanted to

see that I was all the way at the bottom. Obviously by the end of the year

I made my way up to the top, but I used it as a tool to fire me up as well

when I looked at that. So I didn’t necessarily paste this email as much as

it stuck with me. Yeah, it does, you want to prove the people wrong that

don’t think you’re going to make it.

Andrew: I remember reading a biography of Ted Turner and how back when he

was going after the America’s Cup, which I think he won, he refused to say

anything that could potentially be used by a competitor as an insult that

they could then pin up on their wall and say this is that he says about us?

Ted Turner? We’re going to prove him wrong, you know. So Turner stayed

quiet so he wouldn’t do that, and those of us who have statements like

that, it’s good to use it as a firing up mechanism. As I’m going to prove

this person wrong. You eventually did. We don’t know what his intention

was. For all we know he could have just been kidding around, but it clearly

came at a bad point, and it was hurtful, or could have been. You didn’t

allow it to really slow you down. I’m looking now here at my notes to see

where I want to go next with this. You package it, you take it out to

stores, you said that there was, is this where the Food Network helped you

go to the next level? Is that the next milestone?

Jerry: Yeah, well I think the next milestone is probably, that made me jump

in with both feet, is I got a call from the buyer at Nordstrom, and she had

called and said I was just at a party and somebody brought some of your

chocolates to the party and I’d like you to come see me. Bring your

products. So I brought my products to her. Her name is Dawn. I’ll never

forget the meeting. Fairly intimidating type of person. Very nice. I went

in there and showed her the product and she said, you know, I’ve been here

17 years and every year, I get handed beautiful packaging with a really

mediocre product inside. I didn’t know where she was going. She said you

have an outstanding product and a really mediocre package.

I mean, it just highlighted one of the learnings that I had to come over an

obstacle that was in front of me. She said, this is the type of product

that we’d like to have at Nordstrom but I can’t have it in this package.

She showed me other packages. She said you need to, if you have a good

product, you have to showcase it. I learned a lot from her. From there we

went back and changed the packaging, and were able to get our product into

Nordstrom and into some Whole Foods stores and that’s really when I jumped

in with both feet. When I realized that, OK, I’ve got to make a decision. I

can’t do this part time anymore. There’s a need and a demand and

something’s going to suffer. So I threw in the towel in my consulting

business, which where I was making money, to jump in with both feet and go

from there.

Andrew: What did you do to change the packaging? You’re not a guy with an

artistic background. Where did you get this nicer package that Nordstrom

approved of and was excited to sell?

Jerry: I just went out to hire a graphic artist. Initially we had done some

artwork through some folks and I was just looking for the least expensive

way to go and the further I got along, graphic artists have all different

types of specialties, and I needed to find somebody who had a specialty in

consumer products and food. Very, very different, and a very interesting

niche, and so that’s what I went out to find and had to, in a sense, the

person that designs my collateral is different from the person who designs

my packing now, and I had to do that back then.

Andrew: OK. You jump in both feet. You said you got Whole Foods. How did

you get Whole Foods as a customer?

Jerry: Through a little bit of press here locally. We’ve always been

philanthropic. We did a chocolate party downtown and raised money for a non-

profit organization. They read about it. They like it. They called us up

and you know a lot of the first sales are reactive as I was trying to get

the foundation of the company set up.

Andrew: We were introduced by a mutual friend, Tim Berkwin, who by the way

guys in the audience, if you’re a Mixergy Premium Members go look for the

Tim Berkwin interview. He was so good and he refused to let me give the

interview away for free because he does not believe in this everything

needs to be free online. He made a statement about how we need to charge

for our stuff as online entrepreneurs and man was that interview good. It

took a long time for it to really sink in with me, but I’m glad that I

listened to him. Great interview. Go look up Tim Berkwin and listen to him.

But Jerry when Tim introduced us he said, “Andrew, you’ve got to ask him

about the days of giving out samples at Costco to get exposure for first

product.” So, I’m asking. What happened there?

Jerry: Well, there are lots of things. Initially that was the grass roots

way we started marketing. I would go out to different trunk shows. Costco

had trunk shows. Nordstrom had trunk shows.

Andrew: What’s a trunk show that Costco would have?

Jerry: They actually call it a road show. So, if you ever walk into a

Costco and they’re doing sampling, they’re might be some brands that you

sample and you have an opportunity to buy a brand that’s perhaps not on the

shelf there. A road show or a trunk show at Nordstrom for example, is when

you come there, it’s almost like a trunk of clothes. They call it a trunk

show. We would go there with out products. The same type of thing. Sample

it. Tell the story. Try to help them sell some boxes. So I was doing this

at a variety of our customers . . .

Andrew: I’m sorry and is this before you’re on their shelves, they have you

come in there with your product to see if you can sell it? You’re not

fully, you’re not in the shelves, you’re not fully part of their store.

They just say, let’s see if this guy has a product that our people would be

excited about it?

Jerry: That’s exactly right.

Andrew: And why would they do that? I understand that they’d want to test

it out to see if people buy your product, but it’s a completely skewed test

if you’re there talking about the product, telling your story. Is it really

an indication of how the product will do when you’re not there to tell your

story and to share it?

Jerry: Yeah. Absolutely. For Costco and it’s a little bit different for

Nordstrom or Whole Foods for example, because typically at Nordstrom and

Whole Foods will bring your product in and then you will do the shows for

them. So we were doing a lot of different specialty, natural food stores

including Whole Foods and Nordstrom. Costco was another one that we’d gone

to. Now the difference between Costco and perhaps some of those other ones

that I mentioned is the volume of traffic is a lot higher. For Costco it is

a way to test the product to see if it has legs, but it’s also for us a way

to get immediate feedback on our product.

Seeing that many people in a days period, you really can’t do that in many

other places where people taste the product, give you feedback, whether it

be on the price, the product, or the packaging, or whatever it may be and

it’s reflective of sales. Why are people buying it? Why are they not buying

it? So in a sense there is some (?) in it for us and we look at it as a

marketing play. And it’s a way to get it in people’s mouths. Again, I could

probably pop up a sign at our retail store and say, free chocolate today

and I still am not going to get the traffic I’m going to get from the

number of people walking . . .

Andrew: And the feedback. What kind of feedback did you get by the way when

you were there?

Jerry: All different types of feedback. I think we’ve been real fortunate

that the flavor profiles of our products have always been at the top. I

mean I’m very proud of that. That we’ve really focused on flavor and making

sure that we’re using great products and ingredients with good integrity.

But some people say, “Oh, it’s too expensive” or “This chocolate is this

much why is yours this much?” or you start seeing whose buying them, female

buyers or male buyers. Do kids like it? Do older people like it? Do middle

aged people like it?

Andrew: How did you adjust the product base or the way that you positioned

it based on the feedback that you got from one of these trunk shows? And

I’m going to get to Tim’s question because I’m curious about once you did

once you got into Costco, but what did you do with the feedback that you

got that made the product or the presentation or anything better?

Jerry: Yeah. We listen all the time. That’s how we get better is, you know,

I’m not an expert in this industry and we go back to customers and say what

is it that they look for? What is it that they want? And so they may say,

do you have this, I wish you had more dark chocolate or do you have any

white chocolate pieces, or saltier pieces or whatever it may be. And from

there we’d come back and do different types of products. We’d come up with

new flavors. From a packaging standpoint, we had the time of year where

people wanted a gift ready package. They would say, “Do you have something

with ribbon?” When it’s a non-seasonal time, people said, “Do you have

something that doesn’t have ribbon?” They wanted it for themselves. So,

those are the types of things where we had to have seasonal packaging and

non-seasonal packaging. We ended up doing an all dark chocolate box. You

know, dark chocolate has had some nice press over the last couple of years.

So, we’ve created a dark chocolate box, internally, externally, to give you

things like that. So, yeah, we listened and we just tried to adjust from

there.

Andrew: All right, and when you were in Costco, giving out samples, what

was that like? What is Tim talking about here?

Jerry: It was a dream because when I was first doing it, I did everything

myself. What that means is the first day you get up in the morning and

you’re at the warehouse by 6:00, you have to have all your product there,

you have to unload the product, you have to set the booth up, and when

you’re at the booth and the store’s open from, let’s say 9:30 in the

morning to 8:30 at night, you’re not allowed to leave. So, there’s a no

eat, no pee, no nothing during that time frame that you’re on your feet and

you’re selling your product and sharing information about your product. So

that’s not too bad if you’re doing it a day or two but there was one time

during the stretch where it went, I went 63 straight days doing a different

road show and it was exhausting. It was completely draining on the body.

And so, going through the monotony of it, I love people, I love being out

there in front of people, but I lost a lot of weight, I became achy, you

become conditioned. I’ll never forget it was on Christmas Day, the last day

I did it was on Christmas Eve, I woke up, it was probably 3:45 in the

morning, I was getting up out of bed and my wife said, “Honey, it’s

Christmas.” I just didn’t connect it because I’d become so robotic in the

whole thing that I was ready to go out and go someplace and start working

again that morning.

Andrew: I can’t imagine doing it even one day. I would just be so fed up

with everything at that point.

Jerry: It’s funny because, like every place, you get all types of people.

People that are very polite with manners and some people that are not, and

you create a shell to it sometimes. So I always say to people if you’re

ever at a store and somebody gives you a sample, whether it’s Costco or any

place else, always say thank you and look them in the eye because it is a

long day and it’s amazing how many times they’ll say, wow, nobody has said

thank you to me for a long time. I always make sure that I’m very pleasant

to those people.

Andrew: Yeah, you do kind of just take it for granted. You feel like, huh,

you want to give me something for free, give it to me already, you know.

Either I deserve it or stop getting in my way. It’s not until I did

interviews here that I realize a lot if times it’s the owner. It’s the

person behind the company who is there, who is trying to get some

recognition for his product, who is trying to get, as you just taught me,

feedback. Wow.

Jerry: Yeah, there’s [??] some entitlement there sometimes for that, but,

you know I personally every time I see a smaller company that has a decent

product, I always, I’ll buy it. I mean, I just, I know the feeling being on

the other side of that table when somebody buys the product and how good it

feels. I remember the first time I ever did a show, I had nightmares the

night before that I was there for 8 or 9 hours, I didn’t sell one thing.

So, selling the first one was the big thing, but every time you sell one it

gives you a boost of energy, so I always try to support the little guys

when I see them.

Andrew: And they are looking at sales numbers, right? They want to see that

you put up some sales on the board.

Jerry: Absolutely, absolutely.

Andrew: Wow, the pressure of it. You had an issue with an intern from

Brazil you told Jeremy Weisz, our producer. Can you tell the audience about

it? And me, I’m not really clear on what’s going on here in the notes, to

be honest.

Jerry: He was a wonderful intern, it was just one of the 3,012 different

hiccups we’ve had in the company over the years. We were outsourcing a

catering department, they had a kitchen, so we were doing a lot of product

development there, we were doing a lot of our packaging there, we were

storing stuff there. It was wonderful because as a catering and baking

company, his staff would come it about 3 in the morning and they’d be

wrapped up around 11 or 12. So when I met this gentleman I said I would

love to sublease the place and I’d be able to help you with your rent, so

it was great for him, it was great for me. I didn’t have to pick up a

lease. I was able to pay him a fraction of what I would get, and he was

making a little extra money.

Well, I remember Daniel was my intern from Brazil and he and I, I was

working out of my home office, and all of the product was over at the

storage facility. I wake up in the morning and I get an email and the title

of it, I still have this email, too, was big problems. I opened the e-mail

and it was from Bruce, who was the owner. He said, “Jerry, I hate to dump

this on you, but I’ve been having some really challenging financial

problems, the long and short of it is that they’re coming over to seize my

assets today. Whatever is behind my locked door, they’re going to take. So

if you want your stuff, you need to come get it today.”

So, I remember Daniel came in at 8:30 and I go, “All right. I’m glad you’re

dressed casual because we’re going to go get some stuff.” I had to go rent

a truck, we moved everything over. It was the middle of summer, and so we

had to carefully figure out to get an air-conditioned truck, make a bunch

of moves.

Where I live, it’s San Diego [???], obviously, it has a nice climate. A lot

of people don’t have air conditioning, we don’t have air conditioning, so I

went out and bought a portable air conditioner, and changed my entire

dining and living room into a storage facility for the company – on a

temporary basis. These little hiccups that came up are things I try to

forget, but when I remember them, I remember how I should be a little more

resilient.

Andrew: Today, I’m looking at you, you’re telling this with pride, but at

the time this happens to us, we feel like: this is it. And I don’t think

the rest of the world feels this. They feel their own pain, no question

about it, but the sense that as an entrepreneur, something could go wrong

at any moment and take it all away unless you solve it and come up with a

quick solution that no one had ever thought of – because no one faces that

exact problem and had your situation. Unless you come up with that quick

solution: it’s devastating.

Jerry: Yeah.

Andrew: And, we have to do it, and the fact that it comes it doesn’t mean

there’s anything wrong with us, it just means that it’s part of life, and

later on hopefully we solve it. Often we do. Hopefully we end up with the

kind of pride you have, telling this story. This is now a point of pride;

you’ve earned your position here as an entrepreneur.

Jerry: Thank you.

Andrew: What else, what else, there’s so much that I want to know, and I

heard the alarm go off. Do you have a few more minutes to talk to us?

Jerry: Sure, absolutely.

Andrew: Great. So, let’s see what else I want to know about. How about the

time that a product came back with a fingerprint on it?

Jerry: Oh, gosh. We started growing and were outsourcing our production to

a plant. And every time we would meet with the plant, they did the product

really well, but unless I was there, there always seemed to be some

challenges. And one of the challenges was: weight. Obviously, we were

selling our product by weight, and we had a pound box. We were asking them

to come in with plus or minus 24 pieces per pound. When you start doing 18

or 19 pieces a pound, and they become bigger, you don’t need to be a

financial or accounting wizard to figure out you’re giving a lot of product

away, and it’s not meeting the pricing model we’ve come up with. So, I kept

having to go back there, and we continued to have challenges with this, and

it was really stalling the momentum that we were trying to create with the

business.

For me, everything seems to happen in waves. It’s not one bad thing that

happens, it’s multiple bad things that happen that bring you down to a low

point. A lot of things were going on, and all of a sudden we get this

order, and we start doing our quality assurance of it, and we see some of

the product has fingerprints. The choc has fingerprints. Of course you know

when it’s dry, or cooled down, there’s an impression in the chocolate. We

always tell our folks that we make a handmade product, but that’s going a

little bit over the edge.

Andrew: You don’t have to prove it that way.

Jerry: Who did that piece? We have fingerprinting. But those types of

things happened, and we had to make a change. A lot of entrepreneurs that

are listening to this know that it stalls the business, and it’s not

something that you have in your business plan at all. But, when it

happened, it’s like you said, Andrew, you have to come up with a quick

solution.

Andrew: What was the solution? How did you change that?

Jerry: It was very fortunate. At the time this happened, I had gone to the

National Confectioner’s Association, their annual meeting. I remember going

out there because I had used airline miles to fly, and I stayed on a

friend’s couch – I was trying to conserve money at the time. We had put one

of our pieces into a big contest called the Candy Clinic. And there’s

different types of best new piece, best packaging, all these different

types of awards they give out. And we were very fortunate that we ended up

winning Best of Show for our piece of chocolate, which was a “Wow!” for us.

But I remember getting on the plane on the way back, I called my fiancÈ who

is now my wife, and Paul, who has been with me for a long time and helps

with the product development. And I told them the news and they were so

excited. I remember flying on the plane back going, “Wow, we just won this

great international award, now what the heck do we do?”Because I don’t have

anybody to help us make the product.

Well, a couple of days later, because of the award, we had a company that

called us and says, “Wow we really like what you’re doing, would like me to

come up and take a look at the plant and see if we’d like to sublet some of

the plant and use our equipment.” So that’s how we came to our [??] today.

Andrew: One more challenge was when you guys came out with a new kind of

pretzel.

Jerry: Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew: What was it? What’d you call it?

Jerry: Oh gosh. We come out with this peanut butter pretzel

combination which, through our focus groups, just did wonderfully. And so,

for our different flavors and such, we tried to come up with creative or

fun names with each of the products. So Brian, who was doing our design at

the time, I said, “Let’s put our heads together, what do you think?” And he

came out with “Pretzel Bomb”. And the slogan was, “It’ll blow you away.”

And we were like, “Oh that sounds like a lot of fun.” And the logo was a

really creative pretzel with like a little fuse coming out of it, like it

was a bomb. So, Pretzel Bomb was the name.

So, what we did is we created a campaign around this to our email customers

and on our website and everything, and we sent out a snail mail piece on

it. We did a lot of different things to promote it. Well, this all went out

on September 10th 2001, and of course the next day was September 11th, when

the world stopped. And as you can imagine, our hearts stopped when all this

happened because all of this went out.

I guess the fortunate/unfortunate thing is we didn’t have a tremendous

mailing list at the time, where it went out to so many people, but it went

out to enough people where we got comments back. Most of the people who

were warm were friends of our, so they knew it was an honest unfortunate

situation. But we had some people that didn’t know us as well and they were

like, ‘How insensitive is this.’ So anyway, we were able to explain our way

through it and everybody understood it, but we ending up changing the name

of the product, “Pretzo Change-O”, which I think is apropos to what we had

to do.

Andrew: [laughter] Yeah. Yeah, now that you mentioned it. What’s the best

part of all this? Now that you’ve done it, now that you’re here, what’s the

best part? Where do you feel like, boy, this was all worth it because . . .

something.

Jerry: Making a difference when we meet the consumer. When people walk

into our store, when we see people at trade shows, the reaction of people

when they eat the product or they’re able to give the product away as a

gift.

Our mission is to create happy experiences. And we do that by trying to

create something that gives that emotion to people, and when we see that,

it makes it all worthwhile. And in part of that is just having a good team

here at Jer’s Chocolates. Trying to do good in the community. Enjoying

getting up every day and being challenged every day.

And as you know, Andrew, having your company, there are challenges all the

time, every day that people don’t see. But I’m trying to focus more of my

attention on that experience that the people have. Celebrating that

experience, when people say, “Wow, this is great,” or “Gosh, we just drove

35 minutes to get the product.” Or getting a nice letter online and such.

So that makes it exciting for us, it makes us feel good.

Andrew: All right. I’m going to ask you one other question. I just looked

at my notes to see is there anything that I missed, and yes, I think the

answer to your first question brought up another question, that I didn’t

follow up with, and I want to make sure to bring that up.

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how they do it and how you can too. That’s what MixergyPremium.com is

about. I hope you join us month after month, thousands of people have

joined and I hope that you will too. Of course, if you’re not as happy as

all of them, come back, I’ll give you a refund. 100% guaranteed, by me.

MixergyPremium.com So, Jerry, here is what I wrote down, you said, “I can’t

tell you the revenue because there’s a gag order.” Then it occurred to me

later on, gag order? What kind of gag order could there be?

Jerry: Oh, we’re just talking to some different types of partners at

the moment. As far as some potential partners coming into the business, us

looking at maybe bringing in some more types of product lines and vice

versa. So, right now, there are lots of discussions going on with that.

[??]

Andrew: I think I hear what you’re saying. All right, so we won’t say that,

instead, here’s what I want to say. At the beginning, when I said the name

of this company, it probably just went in one ear and out the other, you

know I don’t care about the company, until I care about the company. So, I

don’t remember the name until I care about the company. So, if after you’ve

heard this story and you said, “Who is this guy?” I’m going to say it

again, Jers.com, got a great domain, J-E-R-S, dot com. You’ve heard the

whole story here, go check out the products that we’ve been talking about.

I obviously don’t get a commission off of promoting this, I’m not promoting

this. I just want you to, now that you’ve gotten to know the entrepreneur,

go and get to know the product.

Maybe, when you’re looking to buy something for Christmas, for birthday or

just for yourself or a friend, you’ll go to Jers.com. But, what I care

about is, go to Jers.com right now, just to get a sense of what we’ve been

talking about, so that you have a deeper understanding of what this

business is about. Anything else that I missed in this interview? Jerry . .

.

Jerry: No, I think you did a great job, Andrew, I love what you’re

doing for your customers there and I hope they benefit from it. And, I wish

everybody a lot of luck and I appreciate your support on everything.

Andrew: You bet. Thank you and as always, if you’ve gotten anything

valuable out of this interview, don’t thank me. Find a way to connect with

Jerry and send a thank you note. Great things happen when you say thank

you, when you learn from someone and I’m going to do it right now. Jerry,

thanks for doing this interview.

Jerry: Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew: Thank you all for watching.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you for another great interview Andrew and Jerry for telling us so many interesting things about your business :).

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    what impressed me the most is the training he received at IBM and his IBM experience, matched with his natural hustle. So when he set out to sell sweets, he did it right. And likely had learned that success (beyond a small income) meant getting into the distribution chains. Jerry if you wrote a book about your experience I would buy it!  Props to both of you for putting this great content out there.

  • http://www.sroys.com/ Sidhartha Roy

    Hi Andrew, Loved the interview – the way you directed the focus on the journey to create a great product. Budding entrepreneurs these days tend to focus on making a product for a large market to quickly exit the company and make a ton of cash. That approach is just not right.

    Jerry, I love it how your product is like a journey with your friends, a product that almost matured through relationships in your life. That is how I would want to build. You seem like the young version of that Toy store tycoon from home alone! :)

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Right.

    Aren’t we startup guys too quick to dismiss big companies like IBM? But instead, I think we need to learn from them. It’s amazing how the company took a new salesman and made him into a star.

  • renee

    Great interview – I loved the Costco story and one question I had… would you have done that route again? It seems like although you probably don’t miss the long hours on your feet with no breaks, you could bank that as research development that saved you a lot of time and work later. We did something similar with our products when we started a few years ago, by selling at local farmer’s markets. Looking back, I couldn’t believe how we had to get up when it was still dark outside, load up the van, spend several hours in all kinds of weather, not make a lot of money, and then go back and repeat every Saturday for a few months. But the customer feedback (YES on giving out samples! So many other vendors missed out on valuable sales because they didn’t pass out samples at the farmer’s market), the excellent camaraderie with the vendors and customers, and the safe place to practice your pitch, made it all worth it. 

    The IBM background you have is also great – my husband spent 10 years at HP before we started our business and he loves the freedom of being in charge of his own hours, and especially loves being appreciated for his creative ideas and work :)

    Jerry, one last question – we use a very similar method of making products as you do with your chocolate, except that ours is skin care. Could I talk to you sometime about the equipment you’re able to use to temper the chocolate? We do the heating, the molds, etc., but I know there’s a more efficient way to do things and I need to figure out my options since our growth is forcing us into finding a faster way to do what we do. 

    Finally, Andrew, I listened to your Mixergy Premium pitch in your free shows a gazillion times but blew it off because “premium” made me think “hundreds of dollars a month.” Have you ever actually said the price of $25/mo in your interviews? Once I finally went to check it out, I signed up immediately and have spent a few hours a day going back to listen to all the valuable courses. Now I see why everyone tells you you don’t charge enough. Thank you so much for putting out so much value every single day. 

    Renee

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Renee, if you don’t hear directly, let me know and I’ll intro you.

    Thanks for the compliment on Mixergy Premium. I’ll read what you said in a future interview. I didn’t realize people thought it was hundreds per month.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks.

    It’s an inspiring story.

  • Consultantnomo

    Love the HP refugee status, Renee.  I think it’s interesting that, as an IBMer, Mr. Swain  took heat for going the entrepreneurial route, and am in no way surprised. I’m a former Andersen Consulting/Accenture senior manager who left and is starting up a niche, craft beverage business, as well as wrapping up a SaaS startup. When I first left, the incredulous responses I received re: my future plans were a direct result of “going against the grain” of the corporate culture their systems create, especially for the Arthur Andersen accounting old school legacy guys.  I assume some of the IBM mentality is quite similar.  Bonus to working for myself?  I’m not flying at least twice a week. lol

  • Mikky

    Hi Andrew,

    Another great interview! I love when you do interviews with non-tech consumer product companies. They are always so interesting. If you ever have Jerry on again it would be fun to see inside his chocolate factory. The part about Costco sampling and the IBM sales tactics were highlights….I see a Mixergy Jerry sales course in the future…

    Jerry, if you’re reading this, thanks for being so I depth with your interview (the box design part was also insightful).

    Best,
    Mikky