John Robb, an 18-year-old entrepreneur, has built an organization focused on helping people get … [+]
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States was facing a stress epidemic. In 2019, the American Institute of Stress (AIS) found 55 percent of people are stressed out on any given day. This problem isn’t isolated to any one generation: AIS also found 44 percent of people older than 50 experience regular stress, and 65 percent of people from ages 15 to 50 do as well.
That data was taken before COVID-19 changed the world—these numbers have certainly increased as people grapple with a public health crisis and economic fallout. Too many people dismiss stress as something to endure, but it often leads to other health problems and will inevitably prevent us from being our best for our teams and families.
John Robb, an 18-year-old entrepreneur, is working to confront this issue. With $2,000 in personal savings, Robb started Cloudy, a company with a mission to help people get better sleep and reduce their stress levels as a result. Within a year, the company earned an invitation to Google’s prestigious Brand Accelerator Program.
Robb sets a great example for any aspiring startup founder, even those who are barely old enough to vote. Here are three lessons from Cloudy’s example.
Solve a problem
It’s easy to see why Robb was able to draw attention to his company—he identified a wide-spread problem and offered a potential solution. According to Consumer Reports, 68 percent of Americans struggle to fall asleep at least once per week. As a result, Robb launched a business that could market to nearly 200 million potential customers.
In his own words, Robb said, “I started the brand because I wanted to make products that helped address stress and sleep troubles…My past experience in product design and software development translated smoothly into creating a physical product and brand.”
Every prospective founder should start by considering what problem their business will solve. The more widespread and important the issue, the better foundation a venture has. By addressing a widely experienced challenge—lack of sleep and high stress—Robb started Cloudy on solid footing.
As a wellness company, Cloudy had to take care to source natural, ingredients that customers could trust. One of the main ingredients in Cloudy’s flagship product, their diffuser, is the natural hormone melatonin. The American Association of Sleep Medicine found that 3.1 million Americans used melatonin as a sleep aid in the past 30 days. By basing Cloudy’s product on an ingredient that was widely understood and recognized, Robb and his team built science-supported credibility into the business.
This is instructive even to organizations that aren’t in the health and wellness vertical—cutting corners will only harm a business in the long-term. It is essential to build trust with customers and prospects, whether that’s by proving a product’s ingredients are safe, demonstrating client data will be kept secure, or ensuring services will be provided by well-trained, engaged employees.
Long-term success in business is driven by a broad vision, but minor details are just as crucial to getting where you want your organization to go.
Leverage the right marketing channels
Once Cloudy’s product was market-ready, Robb and his team leaned heavily on digital marketing to raise awareness for their business. Rather than trying to compete in marketing channels with hefty upfront costs, Cloudy excelled with a content-driven, grassroots marketing campaign across social media.
The results have been excellent. Cloudy has built a community of over 120,000 followers on Instagram, and that engagement has led to the brand being featured by Refinery29, Yahoo Finance and Bloomberg. Now, Cloudy is supported by organic engagement and sharing from their customers.
As Robb said, “Our customers have been our best marketers, with word-of-mouth being one of our top sales channels.”
The lesson here is clear: you don’t need a massive PR operation or a hefty marketing budget to build an army of potential customers. If a startup has a good product, and a marketing team that can showcase and share it on social media, they can attract attention without breaking the bank. Brands can also use low-risk, relationship-driven channels such as affiliate marketing to increase their conversions and ROI.
At 18, Robb has built an organization with a product people want and a base of customers. Cloudy’s story is instructive to any aspiring founder—build a business that solves problems, and the rest will be that much easier.
Robert is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners. Join 100,000+ global leaders who follow his inspirational weekly Friday Forward or invite him to speak. His new book, Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others, was recently named to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists.