Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Going the Distance –

Mathew Thalakotur is the founder and CEO of Mighty Gum. The Seattle-based company makes functional chewing gum with vitamins and adaptogens and is free from sugar, aspartame, and artificial flavors.

Being a solo founder can be a lonely journey. You’re not alone in feeling this way. Below are some tried and true methods (and some that I’ve used) to feel connected and stay motivated.

Do you remember the song The Distance by the band Cake from the 90s? If you don’t, give it a quick listen. I’ll wait. The song is about a race car driver who pushes on even after his competition has left him behind, and the fans have left the stands. In many ways, a solo founder of a startup CPG company is a lot like that race car driver, pursuing their dream in an empty stadium.


The green light flashes, the flags go up

Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup

Starting your own business can be very exciting and motivating. Those initial phases of ideating and getting feedback from your friends are fun. But, once you’ve got your idea and have a clear picture of why your product needs to exist, the real work begins. Now it’s on you to figure out how to bring this idea to life. This journey is likely to take longer than you expect, and will not go according to plan. This is where having a co-founder can be great. You have someone else who is as invested as you are by your side for the ride. However, finding the right co-founder can take some effort and a bit of luck.


No trophy, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no wine

He’s haunted by something he cannot define

Bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse

In the beginning, there’s a good chance most people won’t understand your vision. No one outside of your immediate group of friends and family is really going to be interested in what you’re building, and even they can’t empathize with what you’re going through. You’re likely putting up your money, time, and stable job on the line to take a chance on something that even you don’t really know if it’s really going to work. This can feel really demotivating, but when you listen to podcasts and read autobiographies of other entrepreneurs, you’ll realize that everything you’re feeling and going through is normal.


The sun has gone down and the moon has come up

And long ago somebody left with the cup

Take a quick peek on LinkedIn, and you’re bound to see post after post from various founders talking about their successes. It’s totally normal to compare, but don’t let another’s victory make you feel less about your progress. You may not have magazine editors tripping over themselves to write about you (yet), but know that any success you see took years to achieve. This is why it’s important to make founder friends at various business stages and attend events where you can meet other founders. I have at least one weekly call with another founder to share ideas and get inspired. These calls breathe new life into both of us. Groups like Startup CPG are a great place to find other founders. I’ve also had luck meeting people on Clubhouse and connecting with brands on Instagram.


The fans get up and they get out of town

The arena is empty except for one man

Still driving and striving as fast as he can

Now this one can be a bit tricky. I’m sure you can understand the value of a good mentor, they from their experience can guide you through challenging situations. However, a mentor’s initial altruistic desire to help will eventually be met with their desire for compensation. There’s nothing wrong with this, if a mentor is worth their salt they should place a value on their time. And if this compensation is going to be for equity, make sure they bring experience that’s truly valuable and directly relevant to you. It’s important to find a mentor in the CPG space, someone who has built a similar business from the ground up and has first-hand experience navigating the twists and turns ahead of you.


But he’s driving and striving and hugging the turns

And thinking of someone for whom he still burns

Challenges will always be a part of your journey. Embrace it as a puzzle that destiny created just for you to unlock your next level. Rest assured that the test ahead of you is designed to help you grow, not break. Your mindset is key to how you approach your venture. You can come at problems from a place of anxiety or from a place of curiosity. The approach you choose can make all the difference in your mental health. When you are feeling anxious or worried, take some time to reground yourself with your purpose. Why did you start this company? Why is this work important to you? Just remember, as long as you have your health, you can bounce back from anything – so choose to enjoy the ride!


Because he’s racing and pacing and plotting the course

He’s fighting and biting and riding on his horse

He’s going the distance

And finally, make time to take care of yourself. There’s always going to be a list of things you need to get done, however, there’s only one you. It’s supremely important to make sure you’re doing what you need to stay healthy – mentally, physically, and spiritually. The only partner that’s truly been with you all along is your mind, body, and soul. So, make time to meditate, journal, read for fun, talk to your friends and family, exercise, eat well, sleep, and please – do something every day just because it’s fun.

These are the tips I follow to go the distance as a solo founder. I hope some of these can add value to you and your business. If you have a tip on how to effectively manage that solo founder life, please share it in the comments – we’re all in this together.

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