Bill Waldo is a business expert, industry leader, and seasoned entrepreneur. From starting his own successful food services company to aiding fledgling enterprises through all kinds of scenarios, Waldo applies his talent to have an impact on his community. His experience as an entrepreneur, investor, and mentor grant him a unique perspective on the necessary goals that a startup must reach before moving on to investment. He makes clear that idea development, a cohesive team, and viable resources are key to the cultivation of a lucrative business. Ultimately, he states, a steady vision of “making it happen” is what separates the funded from the unfunded companies.
What regulatory or oversight challenges do startups face in the consumer products space from a food services perspective? How can they address and overcome them?
“One of the problems, regulatory wise, that’s out there today, whether you’re in the consumer space or going into it, is labeling. Labeling is a major issue. There are more and more regulations put on labeling, and this has been going on for a number of years.
The consumer goods space is very complicated. If I wanted to try and grow the consumer retail business, how would I do that? What sales channels would I use? What marketing strategies would I use? Those are the most costly parts of the whole process of getting into the consumer business. How do I get it pushed out to the masses? I can have the greatest product in the world, but I have to sell it to retail stores, specialty stores, etc.
One of the most popular methods is the broker community, which I was a part of in the food service industry for my entire career. The goal is to find independent sales representatives who have relationships with the retail industry and can provide access to the retailers from consumer goods people. For example, I have a client right now who has this great bakery mix product and she finally obtained a broker who has relationships with a few small retail chains that are perfect for this particular product. Now she has the ability to get it pushed out there; she has found an independent sales force that gets paid when it performs. And that is a consumer goods person’s utopia because she found an independent sales agency that has relationships with the customers. And those customers are doing business with that broker because they know him/her very well.
Having a relationship with an independent sales organization that has relevant connections allows a consumer goods person to get into the market. If you’re going into the consumer goods business, like any other business, you can’t afford a sales force. You have to have an efficient, effective way to get it out to the masses as quickly as you can.”
From an angel investor perspective, what are the three most important things startups need to have to be investor ready?
“The right product that has scalability, national, and global capabilities. The right team, which is so important, that has the background and skillsets to make it happen. And the traction, investors won’t go into a lot of detail, but, at the end of the day, the funded businesses are the ones that prove they can make it happen.
I’ve got a CEO, a CTO, and business development people – those are the most important and most critical positions for a company to have to gain investor interest.”
From your experience with TriTech, what are the most common issues you see early-stage entrepreneurs face in Orange County? How do they resolve these concerns?
“First and foremost, they have to be beyond the idea stage.
So many entrepreneurs have an idea, but it’s almost still a hobby for them. One of the things I’m faced with, with early stage companies is, ‘are you ready to turn this into a business?’ It’s not just an idea. They need a working prototype – something to show people. The biggest problem I constantly see is the lack of funding sources. The number one issue with entrepreneurs is that they have an idea or almost have an idea, but they don’t have the adequate funding sources. My recommendation and solution for that is family and friends as that is where 95% of all startups raise their first $100,000 in capital. Family and friends come first because they are investing in you, so they will be the first group you should reach out to before considering outside investors.
The other problem is the team, because it doesn’t have the resources. People are not going to invest in one person; it’s too risky.”