Embrace the Struggle - A Lesson in Startup Perseverance

 
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For our latest meetup in Dublin, we were joined by guest speaker Garret Flower, co-founder of Krüst Bakery and Parkpnp; two very different businesses. The event was hosted at Krüst on George’s Street and attracted our biggest crowd yet. Before diving into his story, Garret encouraged everyone to take part in a mini-meditation – closing your eyes and taking 10 deep breaths, definitely a first for our group! The practice is something he picked up in California while at the Blackbox Accelerator recently and has incorporated into his daily routine.

Garret had an interesting start to business, trying his hands at multiple ventures throughout college and beyond with mixed results. While some did better than others, it’s clear that Garret embraced the struggle, was constantly learning and realized early on he would have to let go of his pride. Startups are not glamorous and they take a lot of work. Garret is a fantastic storyteller and told some great anecdotes from the early days. If you missed our meetup, I’d recommend catching him at Startup Grind on March 25th 

 Like many of Garret’s early endeavours, Krüst was started in his famous apartment E7-11 (Ask him about that if you meet him). He and his co-founder Rob started baking pastries there and selling on the streets from baskets. A stand-out memory for Garret was the exhilarating moment they sold their first basket of pastries, making a €3 profit. He recalls how they went out to celebrate the fact that they had built something that worked. From these humble beginnings, things began to scale, they went door to door selling baskets to Super Value and others building up a regular customer base and concentrating on their product.

Many are probably aware of Krüst Bakery on Georges Street – home to the famous ‘Cronut’ but few likely realize the scale of their operations. Today, they employ a large team on the catering side of the business and supply many large retailers and forecourts in Ireland and the UK. The café was an after-thought and another huge learning curve for Garret who didn’t realize how hard retail was. Running a café, you have to get everything right, not just the menu, the coffee and consistent footfall but also the many regulations which don’t sound appealing. On top of that, you have to deal with all the mini catastrophes like equipment breaking down, the toilets breaking or staffing issues. Despite running a fast-growing tech business, it’s clear Garret still enjoys the hustle of overcoming these hurdles and ‘selling another basket’. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty; when we arrived for the meetup, he was helping the staff take out the rubbish – something that speaks volumes.

While running Krüst, Garret came up with the idea for Parkpnp, a peer-to-peer car park sharing platform – solving a problem he had personally encountered. Having strong management in Krüst was key in allowing Garret to step away somewhat to concentrate on Parkpnp in its early days. He recognizes the importance of having the right people onboard like his cofounder of Parkpnp, Daniel Paul who he says is a tech genius – something crucial for any early stage tech startup. The two businesses now collectively employ north of 40 people. 

A key learning Garret shared was to keep focusing on product until users start referring other to your product. Only then are you ready to start selling. Otherwise you risk launching a below par product and losing confidence from the market and your investors. Make sure it makes common sense to as many people as possible and always ask for feedback.  

Given his prolific career already and the enjoyment he gets from creating something new, no doubt Garret will be a regular in the Irish tech news scene for years to come. In the meantime, the future looks bright for both his businesses, especially Parkpnp which has raised €1.5 million in investment to date. They are perusing international expansion through a franchise model, an unusual approach in tech but something that works for them. They also just launched their new SaaS product Park Office feature to manage parking as a service for larger companies and car parks. In terms of takeaways for me, his story was a reminder of the importance of perseverance. Startups don't fail, founders give up. Many attendees on the night are at the early stage of launching something new, which can be a frustrating time. After the meetup, there was an air of optimism as our members discusses plans, offered each other advice and left for the night - maybe it was the meditation? Every so often, we need reminder to keep going if you believe in what you’re doing. Stay tuned to our meetup groupfor announcements on upcoming speakers for another helping of inspiration!

 
Danny O Brien