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In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips, and insights from real entrepreneurs who fight business every day. (The answers were edited and compressed for reasons of clarity.)
Who are you and what does it concern you?
My name is Christopher Cargnoni and I am the founder of Fresh Pawz, a pet brand dedicated to the streetwear culture.
What was your inspiration for this product?
In 2017 I noticed increasingly young people walking around with their own dogs. At that time, while I wasn't ready to take responsibility for my own dog, the family dogs I grew up with were a big part of my life. I have been in retail all my life and have a great passion for building brands and developing products that people can connect with. That's why I started researching the pet market.
Related: The couple behind "Dogs of Instagram" started it as a pet project
Everywhere I looked there were articles about "Millennials are redefining the pet industry!" or "Millennials are now the biggest buyer of pets!" However, when I was looking for brands and products related to the millennial generation, my own generation, I couldn't find anything! Of all the available products, I couldn't get myself to buy one. I realized that there was a big gap in the pet industry.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in producing and marketing your company?
My biggest lesson here is to stay true to your company's DNA. We could easily slide over and create different types of products for the masses, but then my brand would become generic and its authenticity would fade. I didn't imagine that or why I founded this brand. I was confident that large retailers would need a unique brand like us. We just had to stay on course and do something good that would be stupid not to launch our products. Fast forward to today, just three years later, and Fresh Pawz products are sold by almost all major retailers.
Relatives: 5 things my dogs taught me about guidance
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
That's a good question! The funny thing is that since I was 18 I had the word "entrepreneur" as a job title on Facebook – before I even knew what the word meant! The spirit of entrepreneurship was always alive and good in me. I just didn't know what it was like. For me, the word "entrepreneur" means that you choose to create your own destiny. If you're an entrepreneur, you literally can't breathe when someone tells you what to do. The thought of how much an hour of your time is worth in a typical 9-5 job is painful! I think we live in the most blessed time in history for entrepreneurs. There is really an unlimited possibility for those who have the ability and desire to do so.
What was your biggest challenge and how did you master it?
I started Fresh Pawz in January 2018 to fund it through my job. Unfortunately, I was dismissed from my job just a month later due to a conflict of interest. At that moment I knew that I never wanted to spend my time or use my talents to build someone else's future and fortune instead of my own.
Related: The creator of WeRateDogs does five numbers a month by putting cute dogs online. Here's how.
After just a month in business, I could have closed the brand easily. I could have tried to find another day job. That would have been the easy choice, but it wasn't the choice that would get me where I wanted to go. In retrospect, the best thing that ever happened to me was being fired from my job. It finally pushed me to make a decision. I said to myself, "I'm going to use all my chips. I'll bet on myself and trust that I can do what I've always believed." Fear holds you back if you let it. So not!
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs to collect donations?
Investors want to see that you have poured your blood, sweat and tears into your company. They want to see that you've grown everything you can, and then they can consider helping you get to the next level. You have to be authentic. Don't try to fit into a shape to get money from a particular person.
I don't meet people just because they have money. I meet people I would really like to work with. Everyone I have potential partnerships with comes from my own circle, and it was organic. After seeing all the hard work I put in my business, they were also interested in investing.
Is there a specific quote or proverb that you use as personal motivation?
"Hit the odds, make numbers, stay humble." This is a Drake lyric, but it represents everything I care about. We all need the will to go against the odds in life. I am proud to be mentally strong enough to overcome the hurdles. I'm a salesperson, so making numbers has always been a way of life for me. It is what excites me, what makes me wake up in the morning. Staying humble is also a critical part of my identity. I firmly believe that I am only my mother's baby no matter how successful I am in life. Like I said, Angiolina's baby boy. If you fall, arrogance will keep you down. Humble yourself, get up again, and keep trying to beat the odds.