Episode 8 | How 301 Inc. Makes Itself an Indispensable Partner for Growth

with VP and General Manager John Haugen

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If there’s one constant in CPG, it’s change. Startup CPG brands have to constantly adapt to changing taste preferences, changing retail trends, and changing norms around supply chain and ingredients.

Change is also ingrained in the entrepreneurial experience. It’s sort of the entrepreneur’s way – deploy a minimum viable product, test it in the market, iterate until you see real traction. In this model, change is inevitable, and the plan you start with is rarely the plan you end up with.

So it’s fitting that 301 Inc. – an “emerging brand elevator” that helps startup CPG brands optimize for growth – underwent it’s own strategic pivot a few years after launching in 2012.

In this episode we talk to John Haugen, the VP and General Manager of 301 Inc. 301 is a VC arm within General Mills, providing direct investment, strategic counsel, and the resources and expertise that only a company like General Mills can provide.

We spoke with John to learn how 301 have  made themselves an indispensable partner for growth.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Capital and capabilities. When working with an investor or accelerator, the money is important, but the other value-adds can be make a much bigger difference.
  • Make sure you’ve got something special. We get caught up in the importance of branding (this is Brand Builder, after all), but you must have a compelling product offering. The former can’t exist without the latter.
  • Avoid the paralysis of perfection. John explains why the entrepreneurs’ willingness to make mistakes is her competitive advantage. Don’t strive for perfect execution all the time.

Jump to

  • How John landed at General Mills, and why he thinks of himself as a “realistic optimist.” 4:33
  • How 301 pivoted to their current model. 10:25
  • The biggest advantage that startups have over big conglomerates. 12:05
  • Why now is the best time to be an early stage entrepreneur. 17:03
  • John weighs in on the age-old brand/product debate. 19:40
  • Why the 301 Inc. story ultimately won’t be told by John and his team. 25:31

Links

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Brand Builder is presented by SnackNation.