How Factor Rocked the First Year: The Factor Founders

Winning Baby Factor

A first year startup’s path is paved with sweat, tears, and shots…lots of (espresso) shots. And no one can relate the stories of triumph and face palm like Nick and Ryan, Factor’s founder and COO. From nervous blackouts to spending the night in a walk-in freezer, these guys have lived through a lot to make Factor a reality.

In our 1st anniversary series we looked back on what we’ve learned, and how we’ve grown. And most of all, how we’ve kicked ass. Now let’s hear the hilarious stories of first year trials from the founders themselves:

CEO of Factor

Nick Wernimont

Which was the most memorable public appearance?
Probably my first live TV appearance on Fox News Chicago. I was nervous as hell, pacing in the hallway trying to memorize my talking points. The weather man came out, and started laughing. He said “First time?” to which I responded, “That obvious, huh?” He laughed and gave me a few words of advice and was very cool and supportive. It really helped me relax. What’s funny is, when I got off the stage after it was finished, I had no idea what I said. Total nervous amnesia. I think I asked my fiance no less than 15 times if I said this or said that. Looking back I laugh and remember it fondly.

Most valuable advice you received as an athlete?
“Embrace the grind.” No matter if you’re training for a cage fight or working on a big presentation, you need to get in the mindset that the “grind” is something you are happy to take on. Embrace it knowing you’ll be better, stronger, and improved afterward.

How is entrepreneurship like cage fighting?
Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but starting a business takes more balls that walking into a cage fight. It takes a special type of person to handle the mental strain: to leave a good job, start from scratch. It tests everything you thought you knew about yourself. I questioned myself a lot, “maybe I don’t have the smarts for this…” It’s been the most humbling experience imaginable.

Take us back…How did it all start?
I was developing the concept for two years while working in Birmingham, AL. I read a lot of books. I really became serious when brother passed away. I was probably looking for something as an escape. So I dove in head first, started spending eight hours a day planning.

Nick and his brother at the very first tasting event. Feb, 2013.
Nick and his brother Chris at the very first tasting event. Feb, 2013.

What did the business look like in the beginning?
There were just three employees, two of which were chefs. So Ryan and I were customer care, HR, accounting, sales, marketing, operations, and delivery. We had to bootstrap it. When you don’t have any budget, you suck it up and do it yourself. I probably delivered over 500 meals myself when we opened up to the suburbs. That was was me on Saturdays in my Yukon, driving all over the North Shore ringing the doorbells of suburban moms.

How do the logistics work?
At 10pm, the orders come in. All the ingredients are ordered at 11pm.They arrive the next morning. Then everything is made to order, packaged, and delivered. That’s less than 24 hours from food supplier to the customer’s front door. And we’re trying to make it better everyday. The challenge now is to make everything scalable – how to continue to serve more people efficiently and cost effectively.

Why is customer service so important to you?
Every single customer is so so important as a startup. Those early adopters, if it weren’t for them we’d be done, so we take care of them. But I think we’ll always be that way. Handwritten Thanksgiving Day cards, and personal emails. We’re cultivating a community, more than a business. We’re bringing together like-minded performance-driven people to share their tips, techniques and help everyone improve.

What makes working at a start up awesome?
The ability to make a significant impact on the company. You can see the results of your effort in real time, unlike giant companies bogged down in bureaucracy. Here, we can build a campaign in a few days.There is not a preconceived way of doing things. We’re building those systems as we go. The impact is immediate.

How does Factor enable *you* to thrive?
Building Factor has pushed me beyond my limits. This last year has taught me more, worked me harder, and stressed me out more than I could imagine. But I made it. I wouldn’t want to live that first year over again. But we’re here, and we’re excited about where we’re going. In the end, I know we’re having a positive effect on people’s lives. The potential is exponential. This company could be a positive force in the world.

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