Robert Scoble just posted a great interview with Mark Shaw, CEO of Maverick Brands. Maverick Brands, located in Palo Alto, CA, is a ten month old fruit juice startup that has managed to secure distribution for their Sunkist Naturals product line in over 5,000 grocery stores across the U.S. Take a look at the video for more on how Maverick Brands has accomplished this.
A few things I find intriguing about this story:
1) Competition - I love the row of competitor products Mark has lined up in his office window. "Know your competitors as well as you know yourself" says Shaw. I am not a fan of building features and functionality into your product simply because a competitor is doing so. However, if you intimately know your competition and their offerings, this can often spark ideas which inspire even better enhancements into your own product. Plus, you can quickly recognize when a client or prospect has been speaking with your competitors based on the questions they ask. More on that in a later post.
2) Strategic Partnerships - Maverick Brands has partnered with Sunkist in launching Sunkist Naturals. While some people tout the pitfalls of partnering with "The Big and Powerful", I have seen a number of win-win scenarios for both start-ups and large companies from strategic partnerships. Sometimes this ends up working out even better for the start-up. Anyone remember when Yahoo! Search used to say "Powered by Google"? In this case, Sunkist has been able to successfully extend their product line into the premium smoothie and juice category, while Maverick Brands has acquired a fantastic product name and a distribution channel to achieve relatively large volume in an extraordinarily short time. Which brings me to...
3) Brand - Maverick Brands has been bestowed the trusted Sunkist brand name. I can see how Maverick juices may have been wildly successful here in the Bay Area bearing their own name, but somehow I have a feeling that the Sunkist association will pay dividends in most markets across the U.S. Leave it to the CPG folks. Co-marketing and brand licensing are excellent ways to accelerate market adoption. While partnering on product development with a large brand is one way to achieve this, certainly there are a number of smart co-marketing agreements to be made on a smaller scale. Think about how your startup can achieve this with complimentary, well-respected brands in your space.