Celebrating One Year of re:COGs

re:COGs, The Inventory Success Podcast: A Look Back and the Excitement Ahead

Guest Blog from Mike Gelb, Host of re:COGs

In April 2023, we decided to launch a podcast at Shoptalk in Las Vegas. Over three days, I interviewed four incredible CEOs building amazing businesses in a variety of consumer categories – shoes, bow ties, ice cream, and nutrition. Our conversations weren’t about the marketing or positioning of their businesses. We chatted about the ins and outs of the products and inventory they were producing.

Questions like –

  • How were they able to find the right manufacturers?
  • How did they know what a quality product felt or tasted like?
  • What parts of the supply chain made sense to own vs. partner?
  • How are they building their differentiated products while scaling their SKUs in a sustainable way?

Our quest was simple. Chat with the top entrepreneurs and operations experts who are building differentiated products about…inventory.

Wait…Inventory???
Why Start a Podcast About Inventory?

We wanted to fill a void. And we had a hunch. We believe operations, supply chain, and inventory management are the unsung heroes when building consumer brands.

When you think of a consumer brand, you probably think of the second word – “Brand.”

And maybe you start analyzing a brand from a marketing/brand positioning perspective. Don’t get me wrong. Marketing and branding are VITAL to building a brand. You have to generate demand for your product in order for your business to have a shot.

As a marketer myself, I love also learning about this side of building businesses.

But…if you are able to generate demand…how do you make sure you can fulfill that demand? How do you make sure your supply levels can service the demand your company has spent all the time and energy creating? How are you able to grow your inventory and your SKU portfolio in a sustainable way?

At the end of the day, consumer brands are inventory-businesses. We’ve seen brands fail because they mismanage their inventory – they have excess inventory they can’t sell or they are always sold out.

In either case, there’s a mismatch between the demand for the product and the supply they have (or don’t have). This is what we wanted to focus on when building this podcast as these problems may sound trivial to solve, but are actually complex…and only get more complex as brands scale. 

I will be honest. These are the exact questions we think and talk about every day here at Manufactured. Since we’re an inventory success platform, we want to help SMBs build efficient supply chains and be the link to help incredible operators match demand creation with inventory supply.

The reason why we started this podcast was to talk with operations experts about these topics. We hope to educate others and give tips on how to scale inventory businesses in a thoughtful and positive way. Our hunch was that there wasn’t this type of content out there…and that there is demand for this content.

Needless to say…we were right.

What’s Been the Response?
How Are You Expanding Your Platform?

We heard from operations and supply chain leaders how we were covering parts of business building that other podcasts wouldn’t dare go.

One guest, who has been on MANY podcasts, told me after our episode “I don’t think I’ve had a conversation about this topic on a show, and yet this is the most important part of building a business”. This was one of my proudest moments as a podcast host.

In addition to creating a podcast, we doubled down and started a webinar series so listeners could ask their own questions to operations leaders. We thought what could be neat was to organize each webinar based on different categories – beauty and personal care, CPG, beverage, apparel, and natural foods.

The participation coupled with emails asking when the replays would be made available made us feel like we struck a chord with the SMB community (Not to mention on a couple of the webinars, my computer froze halfway through…still can’t avoid the odd technical issue!)

We realized we were building community virtually…but we wanted to help foster connection in the real world. That is what makes an impact. So, we started hosting events. We started monthly coffee meetups in NYC and LA and partnered on one with the one and only Marc Nathan in Austin, TX. At each event, between 40-100 folks in the SMB ecosystem came out to help foster community and learn from one another. This led to hosting dinners, in order to continue trying to add value to the supply chain community.

To cap it off, we hosted a 400+ morning event at Expo West, bringing together many different hats in the consumer startup community.

What I’ve Learned From One Year of re:COGs

The short answer – I learned a ton.

I must admit, I’ve never grown a brand of my own to incredible heights.  So I have deep empathy for anyone who starts a business.

Here were some highlights that stuck out:

  • Bryan Wolff was the CFO of Bonobos during their rise and before they were acquired by Walmart. He mentioned for seven years straight they raised capital always at the end of the year. The reason? Their sales were always strongest during that time of year. Lesson: If you need to raise capital, always raise when you are in a position of strength.
  • Jesse Koltes of Lonolife talked about when he has excess inventory, he sells it to a broker for the Amish. The Amish don’t care about the brand, just as long as the product hasn’t expired. I never thought about that as a sales channel.
  • Will Nitze of IQ Bar discussed why understanding pricing and retail accounts is more important than brand.  You could have the best brand in the world, but if you’re selling it at double the price as your competitors in Walmart, people aren’t going to buy.
  • Tommy Tinkeroff of Fresh Vintage Farms mentioned why he would split $100 of COGs vs. $100 cash
  • Caroline Cotto of Renewal Mill showed us the step-by-step process of upcycling.
  • David Greenfeld of Dream Pops emphasized the importance of investing in manufacturing and making data-driven retail decisions when launching new frozen food SKUs. This advice resonated as a critical factor in successfully scaling specialty food brands.
  • Kristy Lewis of Quinn Snacks walked us through why she always makes sure she is never out of raw ingredients.
  • Paul Voge of Aura Bora explained why inventory purchased through Instacart is a tough channel to account for.
  • Anthony Rosen of Propeller Industries explained why taking money from revenue-based financiers is like a drug. It’s convenient but very expensive.
  • Gainful CEO Dean Kelly shared their approach to balancing personalization and scale as they expanded into Target locations nationwide. Navigating this balance is a key challenge many brands face.
  • Cody Berenson of Siddhi Capital provided invaluable tips on optimizing supply chains, managing DTC vs. retail inventory, and helping marketers understand operations. His insights highlighted the need for cross-functional alignment.
  • Tyson Woeste of BelliWelli openly discussed the supply challenges encountered during product manufacturing and the innovative solutions they developed to prevent dead stock issues. This level of candor and problem-solving is exactly what re:COGs aims to showcase.
  • Chris Carter of Porter Road covered how they financed their processing facility without having to use debt or equity. It’s a great lesson on how to get creative when needing to spend money on CAPEX.
  • Kendra Kawala and Zoe Victor of Maker Wine showed how they convinced winemakers to partner with them.
  • Michelle Razavi and Nikki Elliott of ELAVI discussed how they changed their supply chain to pivot from producing bars to nut-butters.

The most useful advice that emerged across episodes was the importance of strategic inventory management. Whether it’s determining the right inventory amounts, reducing COGs without compromising quality, or accessing flexible financing options, effectively managing inventory is crucial to scaling successfully.

I’ve learned that sustainable growth requires focusing on unit economics, building the right infrastructure, and pacing expansion prudently. The re:COGs community has become an invaluable resource for brand owners to learn how to navigate these challenges.

Looking Forward

As we look to the future, re:COGs remains committed to delivering content that empowers and educates. We’re so committed…that re:COGs is launching a short-form spinoff series called Net 90. On Net 90, we will chat with world-class operators about inventory growth…but in 90 seconds. We believe it will be the most value you can soak up on a second-per-second basis.

re:COGs will continue to explore new topics, expand to different categories, introduce fresh voices, and provide actionable insights that listeners can implement in their businesses. The community events will also continue, fostering the spirit of collaboration and networking that has become synonymous with re:COGs. We hope to see you there!

Here’s to another year of mastering the growth game, one episode at a time!

Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate our first season of the re:COGs podcast at our first-ever office warming party!

 

Listen to the Entire re:COGs Series:

Tune in to re:COGs, the podcast series that examines the essential aspects of inventory management, supply chain optimization, and operational excellence, all through a COGs-focused lens.

Hear business operators and thought leaders from growing consumer brands share their thoughts on product manufacturing.  Through inspiring stories and critical conversations with top experts across CPG, food, fashion, and other industries, listeners are treated to valuable insights and actionable advice that can be applied to any growing business as it scales up operations.

Join the re:COGs Community

We want you to be part of the conversation. We want you to be part of our re:COGs community. Whether you’re a seasoned executive or an aspiring entrepreneur, there’s something for everyone in our episodes and events.

Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform, and be sure to also check out our events page and sign up for notifications on future webinars and in-person gatherings.

At Manufactured, we are committed to accelerating the growth of consumer brands. Our end-to-end manufacturing support platform offers solutions for sourcing, inventory optimization, and financing. Contact us to learn how we can help your brand thrive.

NEVER MISS A LIVE EVENT!

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You’re invited!  Join us for live webinars, workshops, dinner parties, happy hours, coffee meet-ups, and other valuable networking events with special guests, thought leaders, trailblazers, innovators,  decision-makers, and MFD’s exclusive team of inventory success experts.  We manufacture success!

ARE YOU A BRAND MERCHANT LOOKING TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS?

Whether you need sourcing assistance, inventory optimization or financing, Manufactured’s end-to-end manufacturing support platform can help.  Contact us to speak with one of the inventory experts at Manufactured.  Our solutions specialists can help you navigate complex financing options while providing valuable information and insights, so you can choose the option that’s best for you.

Learn how to apply for vendor financing, and get help receiving purchase order financing. Manufactured helps customers in over 20 categories across 25 countries with product manufacturing and inventory financing. 

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