Challengers 8 Tips for Success From

Top DTC Brand Founders and CMOs

We spoke with 12 Founders, CEOs and CMOs of leading DTC and challenger brands to understand what it takes to successfully break through the noise, challenge industry norms for good, and build a thriving community from scratch. Here’s their advice.

1. Follow Your Gut.

“Trust your instincts, because when you’re doing something you love, you can’t imagine doing anything else.” - Ariel Kaye, Parachute CEO and Founder

“For a long time, I listened to other people and didn’t trust my gut around marketing decisions I thought were authentic to my identity.” - Matt Scanlan, Nadaam co-founder and CEO

2. Try Something New

“We are well aware of and inspired by what has come before us and what’s ahead in innovation and infrastructure building in the telco industry. And at the same time, we’re not afraid to think completely outside the telco industry box in order to test new and different ways to better our experience and relationship with consumers. -Minjae Ormes, Visible CMO

“Don’t be afraid to adapt or create your own marketing channels and tactics. There are so many tools we use, not necessarily for their intended purpose, that we adapt and use for an objective that suits us and our community.” - Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Lively founder and CEO

3. Don't Fear Failure

"We didn’t have any background in retail or manufacturing. It was scary, but actually, I think our lack of experience was an asset – we were trying to bring something new to the world and it allowed us to approach the business from a fresh direction." - Alexandra Waldman, Creative Director and Co-founder, Universal Standard (Q&A coming soon)

"Remove the fear to fail – hands down." - Mayur Gupta, Freshly CMO

4. Stay True to Your Values

“Don’t start a business to make money, start a business with clearly defined, admirable aspirations. Don’t start a company because it’s a popular thing to do. The world does not need your version of someone else’s idea. The worlds need new ideas, new inspiration, and all of your weirdness so be fearless about it.” - Michael Lastoria, &pizza founder and CEO

5. Don’t sacrifice long-term vision for short-term gains

"Don’t sacrifice [your authentic customer] relationship in an effort to gain more followers or aggressively drive growth. Next to your team, your customers are your most valuable people. They will come back and support your brand as loyal, engaged customers if they feel heard and inspired by what you’re doing." - Jonathan Shokrian, MeUndies CEO and founder

"There are always times when you are presented with shortcuts or alternatives that may be better for the bottom line, for workload, and so on but do not reflect your mission or the values that underlie it. While it’s always a good idea to incorporate innovations, you don’t want to do that at the expense of your purpose and vision." - Kara Goldin, hint CEO and founder

6. Have a Point of View

“…no matter who you are, or what your role or level is at an organization, you should have a point of view. On everything. It forces you to always know what you believe and want, and take action on it. Be clear.” - Brent Feldman, B.Good CMO

7. Be Curious

“Great leaders, regardless of company stage or functional expertise, are really well-versed in all parts of the business. The best piece of advice I can give is to maintain your curiosity about aspects of the business outside of your day-to-day.” - Nathaniel Ru, sweetgreens co-founder and Chief Brand Officer

8. Stay Focused

"Focus is the most critical thing because as a challenger and upstart you have very limited resources and many distractions. It is absolutely critical to know exactly what your focus is otherwise you will end up spinning your wheels." – Coral Chung, Senreve founder and CEO