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November 5th, 2019

🚐 Mobile Everything – BottleKeeper’s Secrets – Airport Sleeping Pods 🛌🏿

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Why mobile businesses can be much more than food trucks, and the key to winning a patent.

Happy Tuesday, people. Did you know that we have proprietary financial information on more than 600 small businesses? We’ve updated our database — now called the Trends Guide to Small Business Growth — which can help you discover fast-growing companies and how they scaled.

We’d also like your input on the best ways to grow a business, so we’re going to start regularly surveying this group. For today: How should you spend your marketing dollars when you start a business? Take our flash survey — we’ll share results in next week’s email.

New this week: We unpack dozens of opportunities in mobile businesses… show you how BottleKeeper beat copycats… describe the keys to success for an adjustable-desk company growing ~50% YoY… track down the secret Google acronym for a successful business… and much more.

Ready to hustle?

01  Signals
Quick snapshots from across the internet of potential trends before they happen.
Sheet Mask graph

Sheet Mask
Scroll through enough Instagrams and you’re bound to find this fixture of K-beauty: a facial mask made of anything from cotton to coconut pulp that acts as a moisturizer.

What’s next: With more celebrities pushing the product, demand is likely to accelerate. There’s a market for sheet masks on the low end and high end. 

Tigernut Butter graph

Tigernut Butter
Across the alt-milk market, tigernut milk is relatively unknown. The drink is highly popular in Nigeria, but is only
beginning to touch the shores of the United States and the United Kingdom. The fiber-filled superfood is rich in vitamins and vegan-friendly.

What’s next: Similar to other “nuts,” tigernuts can be made into milk as well as alt-versions of butter and flour, both of which are taking off in searches. Others are repurposing the product for tigernut pancakes, ice cream, or even burgers.

Airport Sleeping Pods
When’s the last time you had a long airport layover? With any luck, you found a cushioned row of seats where you could catch a few zzz’s. Luckily, some airports have started investing in sleeping pods. So far, they’re mostly in Europe, where they rent for anywhere from €10-20/hour.

What’s next: The airport layover hasn’t been disrupted in years. There’s opportunity to dream up new airport experiences that generate additional revenue, like exercise classes or healthy lounge food.

See the archive of our Signals here and browse through dozens more Signals based on Inc.’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies here.

02  Trends Recommends  

  • The secret Google acronym for successful businesses (Inc.): Ever heard of EAT? Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It gets you to the top of Google — and whatever industry you’re in. 
  • Keys for pitching VCs (GeekWire): A big one: Think about Step 2 and Step 3 of your company and decide whether you need VC money at all.
  • Video recruitment (TechCrunch): CampusReel built a platform for prospective college students to view authentic campus videos, rather than travel for an official tour. Could a similar product be made for other recruiting techniques? Perhaps for selling vacation destinations? 


  • Can capitalism fix burnout? (BuzzFeed): The marketing agency Gin Lane helped promote the frenetic #goals millennial lifestyle. It has now rebranded as Pattern and aims to help people enjoy life and relax.

03  Identifying mobile business opportunities

Thanks to the proliferation of food trucks, consumers want all kinds of products on the street.

Although startup costs can be high, these businesses carry lower costs than many brick-and-mortar stores and offer the potential for heavier foot traffic at all times.  

Opportunities include pet care, such as grooming and veterinary work, dentistry, bike repair, and personal training. 

San Diego-based entrepreneur Kush Kapila started Sterlings Mobile Barber & Salon Co. 7 years ago. His current annual revenue is $600k, and he is expanding to other cities.   

  • The key: Kapila partnered to be on the campus of local firms, giving him a steady stream of customers.

We explain how Kapila did it and more opportunities. 

Read our full report.

04  How BottleKeeper won in the $5B drinkware market

BottleKeeper, which makes outer shells that keep bottles cold, has enjoyed a dream startup trajectory. The company received early momentum — and financing — through a crowdfunding effort. Then, on Shark Tank, it received the backing of Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner.  

But not everything has been simple. BottleKeeper had to spend six figures fighting copycats through patent litigation.  

Co-founder Adam Callinan shared how he has fended off the competitors and BottleKeeper’s plans for the future. His main takeaways: 

  • Focus on doing one thing really well. Callinan says to learn how to best serve your customer before fragmenting into different customer acquisition strategies. 

  • You gotta fight for your right to party. There will be copycats and people trying to eat your lunch. When push comes to shove, fighting will likely be expensive. Make sure it’s worth it. 

  • Harness your power before negotiating. Tempted with many retail contracts early on, Callinan chose to focus on building BottleKeeper’s brand. Today, BottleKeeper is able to attract much more favorable contracts. 

Read the full report.

05  A refashioned guide to small business growth

If you’re new to Trends, you might’ve missed our small business database — now known as the Trends Guide to Small Business Growth.

Over 600 companies have given us an inside look at their financials, including how much money it took to start their business, how much profit they make, and much more.

We’ve compiled the information in a searchable spreadsheet that can help you start your next business. Check back often, as new companies are submitting their numbers all the time.

We ran a few numbers of our own, based on what companies have told us. Here are a few highlights:

  • Only 7% of the businesses in our database have taken venture funding
  • The median cost to launch a business: $10k
  • The median profitability of VC-backed companies? 44%
  • Median profitability for companies financed by personal savings: 60%

Many of you are eager to start businesses but are unsure of how to secure the capital. Obviously not every business needs VC backing, so next week we’ll be dropping a piece on raising capital outside of traditional VC.

Keeping tabs: Every Monday, we feature one business from our Trends Guide to Small Business Growth in The Hustle Daily email. See our archive of startup stories here, or submit your own entry for our database. And don’t miss our step-by-step guides to growing a business (like this one).

06  The premium desk innovators

The latest in our installment on how-to guides for building small businesses is Ergonofis. 

Based in Montreal, Ergonofis has been making motorized sit-stand desks since 2016. The company is on track to make $2.3m this year and is growing about 50% YoY. 

Co-founder Samuel Finn shared with us: 

  • How to prototype a design for a product 
  • Why ecommerce businesses shouldn’t focus completely on D2C
  • Marketing tactics for building consumer evangelists

Read the full report.

This week’s Trends send was brought to you by Mark Dent, Steph Smith, and Brad Wolverton. We’d love to hear from you.

Mark Dent
Mark Dent
Steph Smith
Steph Smith
Brad Wolverton
Brad Wolverton
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