Kyle Clayton started his first business, Jackrabbit Janitorial, in 2008 during his last two years in college. Having a ‘real’ job wasn’t an option with his school schedule, so he took a leap and went on his own. By the time Kyle accepted his diploma, he had created a full-time job for himself, eliminating the typical post-grad job hunt. For the last 5 years he has had success and launched a total of 4 new companies based in Phoenix, AZ. His most recent, launched in 2012 is a cookie company.
Awesome Cookie Company is an artisanal cookie company specializing in high quality ingredients and unique varieties. One cookie recipe got this company started, their Famous Cranberry Oatmeal. In 2010, Kyle started giving these cranberry oatmeal cookies to his family and clients of his other company. After two years of these unique gifts, his family and clients wanted more. So with two business partners, they started Awesome Cookie Company.
MO: Can you talk about the process of starting with a single cookie recipe used for family gifts and in 30 days created a company around it?
Kyle: Like a lot of people, I work best under a deadline. We had good support from family and clients that loved our cookie recipe so we knew we had something there. The 30-day challenge began when an opportunity to attend a local grocery store buyer’s event was presented to us. We had to get started right away to meet the requirements for the buyers. So we hit the ground running.
MO: In just a month you had a company name and had branded, marketed, and planned a launch party for the Awesome Cookie Company. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during that short period of time, how did you stay focused and keep from becoming overwhelmed?
Kyle: The biggest challenge was a company name, that was the last thing we thought of! None of the other names we had chosen were working but we kept moving forward knowing something would stick. One night my business partners and I were sitting around just throwing adjectives around and Awesome stuck! The other challenge was getting the website built and ready for sales by the end of 30 days. We used a calendar with post it notes for each task and hung it on the wall. Each day we had concrete deadlines and tasks to finish, so it helped keep us focused. It was low tech but kept all the things we had to complete in front of us and each day we knew what had to be done.
MO: What’s one marketing strategy that’s worked really well for you so far?
Kyle: We launched in September 2012 knowing that the holiday season was approaching. Our marketing strategy was focused on cookie gift packaging. From the beginning we knew social media was our biggest asset. I started doing social media for all our companies in 2009 and had established a group of followers. So we took them on the journey with us and documented every day on social media, people were excited to see the changes and development, as we got ready to launch. Our packaging, name, and social media presence really helped to make a successful launch event. We couldn’t believe we made it all happen in less than 30 days.
MO: Where does your strong entrepreneurial spirit come from? What was the first business that you ever started and what did you learn from the experience?
Kyle: My family has been entrepreneurial; my grandfather James Hallen started his own RV Park in Casa Grande. I spent a lot of time there with my family growing up. Also my parents, after working for city government, started their own real estate company. My first business was Jackrabbit Janitorial, a residential and commercial cleaning company. I started with a bucket of cleaning supplies and no clients. In two short years I learned how to market my services, manage my part-time employee, and began social media to generate leads. I’m still learning from this company today, as I manage over 6 employees and all our clients.
MO: How did you come up with the concept for Thrive? How would you like to see this event evolve over the next few years?
Kyle: Thrive started as Jackrabbit Janitorial grew and started offering recycling programs for our commercial clients. We do all eco-friendly cleaning so sustainability is always on our mind. I kept noticing that people weren’t recycling correctly and I wanted to figure out how to change this. I thought that education would be the best way to change these habits and decided to host an event focused on Eco-friendly living and bringing the community together to support sustainability. We got together local businesses, eco-friendly products, and had classes taught by ‘Green’ experts in Phoenix. Thrive was created to teach people to be more eco-friendly but also to show the community all the great businesses that have developed from this ‘green’ movement. This year we are doing it again and making it bigger and better! I hope to see it grow to become a yearly event that helps support and launch other eco-friendly businesses.
MO: If I could grant you one business related wish right now, what would you ask for?
Kyle: I’ve got so many wishes! The biggest one right now would be capital investment. I’ve bootstrapped every business that I’ve created. Jackrabbit Janitorial started off with a couple hundred dollars and Awesome Cookie Company with just a $1,000 dollars or so. We enjoy bootstrapping but it would be nice if micro-loans for small businesses were accessible. No organizations offer this to small businesses and other capital is not accessible to a lot of new business owners.
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