“Just show up.”
These three simple words of advice have helped build a seven-figure business. They came from the organizer of a small business development center who hosted Jason Franciosa in a college internship. The guy continued, “In life… just show up. Whenever opportunity presents itself, you don’t necessarily have to take action… but do show up. Go to conferences, meetings, and events. You never know what will come out of these opportunities… but just show up.”
That’s exactly what Jason does.
From his time in the military to a stint running a drone company, Jason Franciosa found his way to Element 26 and huge success before he even turned 30. He just kept showing up.
As a kid, Jason wanted to become an inventor when he grew up. Taking things apart, seeing how they worked, and putting them back together. That kind of curiosity could drive most parents crazy. But in Jason’s case, it put him on the path to becoming a self-proclaimed “accidental” entrepreneur. Take a look at where this ambitious man has been and pay attention to where he’s headed. You’re going to want to follow this trailblazer.
Jason told Ryan all about how his business grew during the pandemic right here.
The Mission Morphs
In high school, Jason joined a program called Young Marines. Then it was off to the University of Massachusetts. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree and the rank of Second Lieutenant, heading straight into the Army for the next four years. What did he learn? That the Army is hard work. You have to grow up fast, be responsible, reliable, and a dependable leader - all traits that work pretty well in business, too.
His Army stint resulted in rank as captain. That meant headhunters lined up to recruit him when he got out. At that point, his sights were set on corporate America. But lo and behold, there was another journey in store for him.
Headed toward a career path in pharmaceutical sales, he was about to make a massive detour. Jason went to a conference on remote control helicopters, one of his hobbies. There, he met a guy who was designing and building drones. This drone creator wanted to start a business in Bogota, Columbia, and he wanted Jason on his team. That sure sounded more interesting than pharmaceutical sales.
Bags packed, Jason headed for Columbia, assuming he’d be a partner in the business. Instead, he found himself running the show, basically on his own. While the founder worked on government contract acquisitions, Jason ran the business. After two years and a visit from an old friend, he called it a day and headed back to the States to try his hand at something different.
Functional Gear for Functional Athletes
Showing up for every opportunity is how to find success and a path that will lead you down the road of a fulfilling life. That’s just what Franciosa has done, right from the beginning, and the drone company was just the start. With a nudge from his friend who visited him in Columbia and was on his way to the MBA program at MIT post-military, Jason took a chance to come back to America to start something new. The opportunity to advance his knowledge presented itself, and together they went through the Ignite Program at Stanford University then the Fuse Program at MIT, where they created a great product that ultimately failed because they spent all their time on product development and none on audience development. The loss didn’t dampen their enthusiasm.
With his investment money and the first product in the dumpster, Jason knew there had to be an easier way! In 2017, Jason saw an ad for Brand Builder Bootcamp. Again, he showed up. He did the work, following the blueprint and connecting with the other entrepreneurs on the same path.
First stop, finding the audience he wanted to serve.
Fitness and mixed martial arts had fascinated him forever, so serving that crowd was a natural next move. Jason partnered with his best friend from college, a practicing physical therapist and fitness enthusiast. Choosing their first products was as simple as recognizing gaps in the marketplace, specifically among CrossFitters. As avid CrossFitters, they had first-hand experience with the shortcomings of the gear on the market.
Their brand, Element 26, started with a weightlifting belt. Simple enough, right? Or maybe not so simple. One of the primary problems with existing products is the reliance on Velcro. Changing something as simple as the Velcro closure was the key to creating the new product line and the company that would change their lives. Adding a buckle, a locking mechanism that would keep the belt on securely, was their primary focus for the first full year.
Next came building an audience, getting reviews, and showing up in person at CrossFit events. A year in, they hit $30,000 in monthly sales. It made sense to go all-in on this business. In year two, Jason and his partner launched more products and passed the seven-figure mark.
Their product line now consists of weightlifting belts, barbelts, hand grips, wrist straps, athletic tape, and apparel. What’s the goal? Functional gear for functional athletes is their tagline. They want their equipment to increase performance, maximize personal records, and reduce the risk of injury. They’ve done just that with Element 26 and its highly-rated line of weight training and CrossFit gear.
What’s the Mission?
Element 26 promotes a happier, healthier life through exercise and training by helping Crossfitters avoid common injuries and the setbacks they cause. Instead of letting your weights rip through the skin on your hands, trust their hand grips to protect you while you get in your optimal workout. Don’t risk injuring your back due to lack of support, use the adjustable weight training belt with a locking buckle mechanism to protect your core while you build your strength. It’s the focus on details, quality, and the customer experience that sets Element 26 apart from the competition.
How’s the Journey Going?
2020 turned out to be one of the most challenging years in history for businesses around the globe, and Element 26 is no exception. They were hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions and shelter-at-home orders. When people can’t go to the gym (or box!), they stop buying gym equipment.
The good news is, the company retained its rankings across the board on all of its sales channels and maintained enough business to pay salaries and stay in the black. However, sales dropped in every category. With CrossFit events across the country canceled and the inability to meet their clients and potential customers face-to-face, it has cut into brand building. Element 26 thrives because of the relationships they’ve built.
Success in the preceding months means cash is still flush. But the COVID crisis put a pause on the explosive growth pattern Jason’s seen since launch. For Jason and his partners, the biggest change in their daily lives was the feeling that they’d just retired. From working tirelessly for years to slowing down to a two to three days per week routine, it was a sudden and awkward dialing down of their tempo.
Even with the slowdown, the checks were still coming in, though. That pause was the perfect opportunity to work on product development and modification. How are they staying afloat? By focusing on the shift to home gym products and customers who can still get in some of their workouts at home, they’re working through the challenges of 2020. Watching their business grow by 200-300% per year since launching is proof they might just be onto something.
The Student Becomes the Teacher
The number one secret to success Jason’s learned is that to create true differentiation, you have to actually DO the thing. Immerse yourself in your field. It’s the only way to understand your customers, their experience, their needs, and the problems they face. Jason, his two partners, and the team at Element 26 are obsessed with CrossFit. Being your own best customer brings clarity and credibility like nothing else.
What else has he learned? It’s critical to focus on your strengths, and not just in the gym. One of Jason’s partners has been a CrossFit coach and athlete for more than 15 years. The other partner is a practicing Doctor of Physical Therapy with over eight years of training and experience in physiology and exercise science. His partners’ knowledge and expertise lends itself to the design and creation of tools and equipment meant to make working out better and more efficient while significantly reducing the potential for injury.
And what about Jason? Jason focuses on running the business itself and the leadership and direction of the company. That’s where his experience and expertise come into play for the growth of the company. But the most important factor is to respect each other’s roles and input, even if one person is responsible for making the final decisions.
Members of the Capitalism Incubator can also vouch for his coaching and training skills. Each week, they dive deep with him as they crunch through their stuck-points along the way to build seven-figure brands of their own that they can one day sell (if they want to!).
Jason’s Advice to Other Fledgling Entrepreneurs
Priority number one is to take care of your customers.
Meet them face-to-face when you can, or take the time to FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype with them until the world gets to a place where it’s safe and reasonable to meet in person. Focus on your product and how it helps your customer be better, achieve more, and enhance their performance while cutting back on exercise-related injuries.
Make sure you read product reviews.
Spend some time on Amazon. Look at not just your products, but also your competitor’s products. What are people saying about them? What are they saying about the company? Take note of people’s gripes and wishes. Building this habit will improve what you have to offer and take your company to the next level, above and beyond what your competitors are willing or able to do.
Reach out to your audience.
One of Jason’s partners has a way with words and crafts incredible emails that go out to their contact list. People rave about them. They love to get them and love reading them, which means they’re sharing them. Talk about magnetic marketing! At a past convention, a celebrity figure walked up to their booth and talked about how much he loves the emails. If you don’t have a wordsmith on your team, hire one. It’s a fantastic way to build brand recognition and create a connection with your customers and target market.
Stay connected to your industry.
It can be easy to pull back and disconnect once your business gets rolling and growing and you get distracted by the daily to-do list. Don’t disconnect. It’s critical to stay immersed and to know your subject. Use your products yourself. Watch your customers using your products. Listen to their feedback. When you do all of these things, when someone complains or compliments you, you will know exactly what they’re talking about.
Show up in e-commerce.
Don’t be afraid to use yourself and your image in your online sales to boost your bottom line. Many business owners prefer anonymity. But if you don’t show up, you can’t build your brand or your business, especially now with so many changes and unknowns in the global marketplace. Work hard to get that component of your business right. Work with an expert or a mentor, hire a professional or a consultant. Do what you have to do to make e-commerce work for you.
Don’t get distracted by shiny objects. There’s a certain fear of missing out in business, a tendency to chase too many rabbits. When you find what works, double down on it. Focus on taking care of your customers and building your audience. Make sure your products are top-notch and continue to improve them, don’t let quality slide on your existing offerings because you’re distracted by the next potential product.
Finally, appreciate what you have and what you’ve built.
It’s easy to focus on your products, brand, website, numbers, and vision. But don’t forget to appreciate what you’ve done, what you’ve created, and what it’s done for your partners, your employees, and especially your customers. Because what it all really boils down to is people.
How does Jason have the bandwidth to spend time coaching our students inside the Capitalism Incubator while he’s running a business that’s projected to hit $1M in monthly revenue? Easy. He follows the Owner’s Model that we teach. And he built his brand the same way we teach in this free video series.
Jason’s Brand Recently Crossed $7M… So What’s That Like?
6 years into serving functional fitness fanatics, Jason Franciosa of Element 26 just wrapped his slowest year of growth… but it was still 80% YOY. In 2021, growth was more like 300%.
Once you scale to bigger numbers, quadrupling your business becomes a bit more challenging than when you’re first getting it going. That’s why we were so glad to sit down with Jason and get a reality check on what playing in the big kids’ pool is really like. As usual, this coach inside The One Percent has solid advice that’ll work no matter where you are in your journey.
There’s a common sentiment out there that basically says the bigger you grow, the bigger the problems you’ll need to learn to solve. Mo money, mo problems, in other words. Kind of a daunting thought. Here you are battling dragons - and now you’re hearing there are even badder baddies headed your way.
Mo Money, Mo Problems?
But Jason put that to rest beautifully… “It should be like ‘more money, different problems,’ right? The problems you're dealing with just scale up. You also have more money to deal with problems. You have more resources to allocate to problems, and at the same time you have bigger problems. So it’s kind of a wash.”
OK, that we can deal with!
How Was 2022?
2022 was, all in all, a great year at Element 26. They launched new products. They started working with a large influencer who has 1.4M followers. They doubled down on what was working well. They tested some new stuff. They’re expanding into new markets and launching on new sales channels. The team is dialed in and running on oiled tracks. And despite some significant challenges, sales still grew by 80% over 2021.
For inexperienced brand owners, this is where things could get tricky - especially if they don’t know their numbers well enough to maintain financial prudence. There will be more and bigger wins, but there are also more and bigger pitfalls to anticipate and avoid, too.
One of the biggest challenges involved the brand’s manufacturer. Without telling Element 26, the manufacturer changed how they make their popular knee sleeves - the brand’s second-best selling product. This led to a big recall and going out of stock for five months so far and counting.
Meanwhile, the brand launched a new leather belt (patent pending). For anyone who’s gone through the Perfect Product Formula (part of The One Percent curriculum) that Jason created, you know how driven he is to test the living daylights out of new products. His beta testers are unusually… robust… in how they test. Watching them, you might think he’d asked them to find 1,000 ways to BREAK his stuff. With this belt, there was an issue with the ink bleeding through the product and leaving its mark on users’ white t-shirts.
There were also issues with Amazon shutting his ad account down a couple of times and copycats trying to knock off his products. And Amazon has yet to check in the inventory delivered on January 4. Fun!
So, how’d he deal with all of these challenges?
Focus. Focus on the low-hanging fruit - the tasks, ideas, and next steps that will have the highest ROI for your time, money, effort, and stress. Back in the fat days of 2021, a lot of brands got sloppy and bloated. There was so much cash out there that money was cheap. Brands hired more people to do more things before doing the math to know whether they were making sound decisions. Jason’s always built with an eye toward staying lean and focusing on what actually matters. This past year, that was launching more products and making more partnerships with the right people.
In Element 26’s case, one of those partnerships was with an influencer who’s the perfect fit for the brand. Like the brand’s best customers, she’s a Crossfit focused athlete. She’s a legend in the strength micro niche within the sport. When she wears the brand’s gear, it gets seen. Partnering with her makes a lot of sense.
Pro Tip on Working with Influencers
“I’m partnering with an influencer who’s got a million followers, so, I’ll have a million-dollar business, right?” Aside from approaching influencers in a way that’s cringey, the next biggest mistake you can make is expecting the influencer to bring you sales. Instead, it’s on you to dial in the content and marketing for them so all they have to do is put their name behind it. The influencer is all about branding… not selling.
Jason’s also quick to credit his team with the wins of 2022. “They did their things.” Whether it’s customer service, accounting (just as important!), and every other role in your business, it all matters. When everyone’s in the right role and you can trust them to do it right, that’s when businesses start to mature. Before then, you’ll find yourself hiring and training people then realizing they might need to shift into a new role.
Speaking of new roles, you’re probably wondering what a $7M founder’s role is - especially because we teach the Owner’s Model, in which the owner does not, in fact, do ALL the things. Jason’s primary role now is making sure his team members can do their jobs well and setting the path for the business to move forward. He sets the priority for the month and coordinates all the moving pieces to make hitting the targets doable.
Will He Sell?
And because we know you’re wondering just as much as we were… now that the brand could easily fetch 8 figures if the founders wanted to sell it, will they sell?
“We are not selling this year. I know that for sure,” Jason says. Some founders regret selling because they miss their business (and end up buying it back… eh-hem). Some wonder if they left money on the table. Some don’t know what to do with themselves if they’re not working. And some soon find themselves with the new ‘job’ of investing their exit money - and stressing because they do it badly and take significant losses. For now, Jason’s enjoying scaling his business - and because it’s cash flowing beautifully, he can keep and grow this asset while diversifying his investing in ways that make sense for the long term.
We've been following Jason's story since it began and are incredibly proud of what he's built. He's not only running a very successful business... it's a business that truly serves its customers and makes the world a better place for them.
If Jason's story inspires you to build a brand that has the power to create generational wealth, we can help.
In fact, we're on a mission to make one million new millionaires by 2028. We'd love YOU to be one of them.
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