Jesse Jenifer had an epiphany while on vacation with his family in 2017. Before leaving, he made certain to let his website design clients know he would be gone for two weeks and warned them they would receive an "out-of-office" email reply.
How did his clients respond?
"They all flipped out. They couldn't handle it." Jesse's clients bugged him around the clock. They became needy, and everything was suddenly an "urgent" emergency. Jesse quickly realized he needed to do something else. "Yes, I am my own boss, but I have like 20 bosses who won't let me take a vacation."
"I need to diversify my income stream." Jesse Jenifer
Jesse started looking at every possible venture—well, at least those that didn't involve clients. He stumbled across Ryan's famous video and believed the plan would utilize all his skills. Selling physical products seemed like the ideal business opportunity.
But the road to success wasn't without a few potholes. After a stressful failed product launch (which Jesse says was a blessing in disguise), he started Cakes of Eden (now called Apron Heroes). The brand's first two products took off, but keeping items in stock became a different story entirely.
Commodities Get Cannibalized
Apron Heroes grew faster than Jesse anticipated, although not necessarily in an ideal way. He prioritized launching products instead of building an audience. Sure, his products were a hot commodity, but they were only a commodity. Once he sold out, his customers vanished, and he had to regrow his entire audience with every restock.
Before funding, inventory management was all Jesse did. It accounted for at least 90% of his workload. And he found it impossible to break even. "All the products were cannibalizing themselves," he half-jokingly recalls. Money was so tight that Jesse could only afford to buy the bare minimum with each launch. Every penny he earned, he spent on ads, discounts, and giveaways to regain ground. He practically gave away the first 500 units, and if lucky, Apron Heroes would break even on the second inventory run.
The constant cycle of buying and selling without turning a real profit left Jesse banging his head against the wall.
Give A Few Grapes, Get a Whole Vineyard
The Capitalism Fund landed on Jesse's radar in July 2020. He spent the next few months in advisory calls, and by January 2021, the investment was officially complete.
But has the Capitalism Fund really helped Apron Heroes? More than Jesse ever dreamed possible.
This past year, Jesse hit his most significant milestone—a successful Q4. It was the first time ever, he didn't run out of stock. Instead of closing down early, the brand got to capture the entire buying frenzy, and it was amazing to watch the sales continue.
How would Jesse best describe the Fund? "If only I could have a magic lamp and rub it and ask the genie for anything—question, idea, money—that's what it's been for me." And unlike in the movies, the Fund doesn't stop with just three wishes."
"Take Long Walks on the Beach and Think Like a CEO."
Focus is paramount when building a business, but focusing on the wrong thing will only send you back to the starting line. And thinking like an entrepreneur instead of a business owner forced Jesse to restart the race more times than he cares to remember.
Cakes of Eden passed the $1 million mark after a few years. But that isn't the ultimate goal. Jesse dreams of growing to $10 million. Before meeting Ryan, he assumed launching more products was the only way to succeed. After all, 20 products got him to $1 million, so 100-200 would take him to $10 million, right?
"No," was Ryan's blunt response.
He told Jesse to focus on fewer products and to build his audience instead. He should take long walks on the beach (which is easy to do in Florida, where this former New Yorker lives) and think like a CEO. Even more importantly, if Jesse wanted to go from $1 to $10 million, he needed to hand over his entire to-do list to someone else.
Until that moment, Jesse was the company. His wife did help out with social media, but when COVID-19 hit, she became the teacher, the baker, and the candlestick maker at home. The pandemic left Jesse doing everything on his own. Letting go and finding people who were better than him was a fun challenge.
Apron Heroes now has a customer service team in place and recently brought on TurnKey Product Management to handle the Amazon stuff. Jesse is also in talks with a couple of companies to manage social media and email marketing.
"Since the Fund came in, I've had the funds and the guidance to build a business rather than just sell products. I'm confident I'm on the path to 10 Million in three years or less."Jesse Jenifer
Belay That Launch Order
Now that Apron Heroes has all the right processes in place, Jesse knows it will hit a home run and become highly profitable. Instead of worrying about paying the bills each month, his primary focus is serving customers and providing the best experience possible.
Perhaps the most profound change, however, is how Jesse views product launches. Apron Heroes planned to launch multiple products this year. But because of Ryan, Jesse learned that one fantastic product is better than five mediocre ones.
This year, Jesse plans to launch an express cake pop kit. It will contain everything needed to make delicious cake pops at home—from start to finish. Target and the grocery carry everything needed to make cake pops, but all the components are in separate aisles. It's easy to forget something and have to make a shameful trip back to the store.
Jesse wants to simplify the process and sell the entire experience direct to the consumer in one package. "You're going to have to buy them all together anyway!" He's currently working on an organic cake pop mix with dye-free sprinkles that he would feel good feeding his two kids.
It's Not the Finish Line; It's the Journey
Entrepreneurialism is part of Jesse's soul, and he learned a lot from his own family. His dad, Daryl Jenifer, taught him the art of negotiating. Daryl is in the rock band Bad Brains, and as a child, Jesse watched him negotiate music contracts. Growing up in this atmosphere made Jesse realize he wanted to work for himself. As he says, "I've always been a maverick."
Jesse's grandfather was the don of the family. He created an innovative brand that brought British products to other countries, but he lost all his hard-earned money right before his death. Jesse aims to re-earn the family fortune.
"I want to make back what he lost."
And with Apron Heroes, he's on the right track to do just that.
Invest in People, Not Products
The Capitalism Fund taught Jesse the importance of knowing your vision and growing a rabid audience. "Know your audience. They invest more in the person than in the product." Your audience needs to trust you would be successful doing anything, whether it's e-commerce or selling frying pans on the side of the road.
But the best piece of advice Jesse has to offer is, "Get back up."
It doesn't matter what you want to sell. As long as you grow an audience and think like an owner, success will follow.
You can hear more about Apron Heroes and the other brands the Capitalism Fund invested in on this podcast episode.
And now that you have an irresistible craving for cake? Jesse's got you covered. Head over to ApronHeroes and use the promo code "capitalism15" to get 15% off.