- Last week Amazon announced the finalists for its first-ever Small Business of the Year awards, with 18 finalists across 3 categories.
- The 6 finalists for the grand prize category hail from across the US, and offer products for the kitchen to the outdoors.
- Business Insider reached out to Ravenox CEO Sean Brownlee to hear his advice for how other entrepreneurs can capture ideas, get funding, and continue to develop and grow their businesses.
Brownlee is a US Marine who makes ropes for a wide array of applications. His keys to success are grit and keeping things simple.
What was the inspiration for your business idea?
The goal of going into business for myself was to allow for the opportunity to continue to serve my country and community and to live as fulfilling a life as possible. When I transitioned from active duty in the Marine Corps and into the reserves, I was looking for a balance in life. I wanted to continue serving my country, but in a way that would be sustainable throughout my entire life.
Along the way I learned that there was more than one way to serve ones' country. To quote John McCain, "Every day, people serve their neighbors and our nation in many different ways, from helping a child learn and easing the loneliness of those without a family to defending our freedom overseas. It is in this spirit of dedication to Courtesy Ravenox defending our freedom overseas. It is in this spirit of dedication to others and to our country that I believe service should be broadly and deeply encouraged." Creating jobs, bringing manufacturing back to America and helping American companies grow and stay relevant in the 21st century was the path I chose to continue my service.
In order to do that I looked to technology and how I could build a company that could quickly integrate existing companies with the rapid changes that were taking place with consumer and business behavior. I decided to start with rope, something very familiar to me. In my youth as a Boy Scout tying knots, lashings and pioneering and in my years of service in the Marine Corps rappelling, fast roping from helicopters and parachuting I understood how important it is to have only the best ropes and cords. Using this as a base we built our business on the backbone of Amazon. It has quickly morphed into becoming a manufacturer ourselves.
How did you fund your business at the start? And what is your top tip that might help other entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses?
I had saved a considerable amount while serving in the Marine Corps and self-funded my start-up. Not everyone has that kind of opportunity. I would recommend to anyone starting a new business to keep it simple. Simple is the key to easy, fast, low cost and scalability. Mix in grit, determination and perseverance and you'll have success.
What feature of the Amazon platform are you most focused on right now, and how does that fit with your overall business strategy?
Utilizing Amazon's advanced fulfillment network and always maintaining inventory is at the top of our priority list. There is enormous capacity for growth through the Amazon marketplace and having products delivered to our customers quickly and efficiently through Amazon FBA allows us to focus on our customer obsession. This then trickles through our entire supply chain.
What is your business education background, and what resources (books, trainings, podcasts, etc) do you use to learn and stay on top of your game?
While earning an MBA at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey I had the unique opportunity to spend a semester in Cairo during the revolution matching venture capitalists and social investors with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial incubators. I was inspired by those I worked with and paired it with over two decades of experiences in the Marine Corps. It has been said many times that constant reading is the key to success. To stay on top of my game I try to devour as many books as possible on a variety of topics to gain exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking. Some of the most influential books that have helped me start and grow this business are “The Art of War”,“The Lean Startup” and “Business Adventures.”
What is the top tool, app, or technique that helps you stay organized?
Utilizing the latest software and applications is at the heart of keeping our business organized. We’re constantly searching for the newest technologies that integrate with our systems to provide accurate, relevant and timely information. This includes everything from employee time tracking syncing with accounting software and automating payroll to inventory management across marketplaces and global fulfillment centers.