Brand Growth through a Strategic Buyer With Mark B. Goldfinger of Unybrands
Brand Growth through a Strategic Buyer With Mark B. Goldfinger of Unybrands
Mark spent the past 6 years at WeWork focusing on Growth and International Expansion. During his tenure at WeWork, Mark held a variety of senior roles concentrating on opening new markets, growing and hiring sales teams, building out processes in existing markets, and helping troubleshoot priority markets.
Unybrands operate globally, with their headquarters located in Miami and additional teams based in Berlin, London, New York and Seattle. Their team is backed by successful growth and VC investors as well as European family offices allowing them to deploy their capital fast.They are technology and data-driven, and operate and scale brands globally. Once they acquire your brand, it’s their turn to further develop and build it on their multi channel platform.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Mark Goldfinger explains what FBA aggregators are
- How a strategic buyer help a founder make the decision about their brand’s growth
- Four big things that differentiates Unybrands from other aggregators
- Mark shares some wisdom on how to be a success in FBA
- The looming recession and inflation and how it is affecting the FBA space
- Mark shares how Unybrands vet for a potential acquisition
- The moments that made him the success that he is now
In this episode…
Mark Goldfinger will walk us through the considerations in acquiring a brand and how to handle founders who are in doubt when it comes to exiting.
His experience in sales backed by a wonderful team at Unybrands makes him a good resource for brand owners who are in the FBA space or are wanting to be in the space and are looking into scaling their business.
Join Martin Zerrudo on this episode of What Do You Do Next?, as he sits down with Mark B. Goldfinger, Senior Director of Growth at Unybrands, to discuss what makes a strategic buyer diferent from most aggregators and how to grow a brand in general. He’s also excited to share the expansion they’ve recently done in the Asian Market with their first branch in Shanghai, China.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Seller Universe Ecommerce Group
- Martin Zerrudo on LinkedIn
- Mark Goldfinger on LinkedIn
- Eugen Miropolski on LinkedIn
- Farnam Street Podcast
- Misha Beatty on What Do You Do Next?
- Brian Nwokedi on What Do You Do Next?
- Mike Jackness on What Do You Do Next?
- Darron Burk
Sponsor for this Episode
At HireTeam, we understand the enormous amount of time it takes to place job ads, respond to applicants, and complete the tedious screening process. That’s why we created this unique Hiring and Recruiting Platform. It is designed to completely change the applicant experience and give your team their precious time back to focus on daily operations.
Martin Zerrudo (00:00):
Hi, I’m Martin Zerrudo. I'm the host of the “What Do You Do Next?” podcast. Whether you're just starting your e-commerce journey, finding ways to grow your online brand, or can't seem to find the right tool or partner to help you breakthrough. We're here to help, we interview experienced sellers, top strategic service providers and other seasoned e-commerce experts that will help you answer the question: What do you do next?
Past guests include Misha from Pacvue, Brian from Elements brand, Mike Jackness from EcomCrew and so much more. Toda’s episode is brought to you by Seller Universe Ecommerce Group. We're a global e-commerce agency providing essential Amazon, NetSuite, and Shopify service solutions for brand growth.
For example, we had one client in manufacturing that was selling products on Amazon an their sales weren’t doing so great. We started handling their DSP ads and by the way we have past Amazonians who are running the ads team at our company. We took them from a 2 ROAS to 8.3. So essentially they spent 300K in ads spent in 6 months and we were able to bring 2.4 million in sales.
If thissounds interesting to you, please visit our website www.selleruniverse.agency
But today, the man of the hour, the reason why we're here, we are talking to Mark B. Goldfinger, who's the Senior Director of Growth at Unybrands. Mark spent the past six years at WeWork focusing on growth and international expansion, just tenure there. Mark held a variety of senior roles, concentrating on opening new markets, growing and hiring sales teams, building out processes in existing markets and helping troubleshoot priority markets as it relates to Unybrand and his role there and what Unybrand does, they operate globally where their headquarters are located in Miami. Congratulations. So much nicer than Toronto and additional teams based in Berlin, London, New York and Seattle. Their teams are backed by successful growth in VC investors, as well as European family offices, allowing them to deploy their capital fast, they’re technology and data driven and operate scale brands globally. Once they acquire your brand, it's their turn to further develop and build it on their multi channel platform.
Hello, Mark. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Mark Goldfinger (01:52):
Hey Martin, thanks for having us. I'm really excited to be here. And any client or any brand that doesn't wanna have their business grow by about $2 million, I think they're not thinking about the right way.
Martin Zerrudo (02:03):
Every time I talk about DSP they're like, what is that? I'm like….
Mark Goldfinger (02:06):
Martin Zerrudo (02:07)
I love it.
Mark Goldfinger (02:08)
No, seriously. Thank you for having me. It's been a long time coming, but I'm really glad we got to make this work.
Martin Zerrudo (02:14):
Absolutely. Do you work from home?
Mark Goldfinger (02:18):
I don't, I work from the office or I do a little bit of a hybrid. So Unybrands, we actually have about a hundred, 110 employees around the world. Most of them sit out on one of our hub locations. You mentioned New York, Miami, Seattle, Berlin, London. I sit out of our New York office. We got about 25-30 people in the office. I would say I'm in Monday through Thursday. But I definitely enjoy working from home on Fridays.
Martin Zerrudo (02:47):
No, fantastic. That three day weekend is everything.
Mark Goldfinger (02:49):
Martin Zerrudo (02:50):
Even though working from home honestly gets pretty crazy, people think, “Hey, you're chilling at home”. Not really.
Mark Goldfinger (02:56):
Because of these smartphones, I would say there's really no disconnecting when you're in a hyper growth startup. But you don't wanna disconnect. You wanna be able to help them grow it. You wanna feel like you're adding value and it's a lot of fun.
Martin Zerrudo (03:10):
The thing that I talk to people about like, Hey, you work at a startup, you wanna a startup, while fortune 500 fortune 100 companies have the ability to leverage their foundation and their legacy. And to be perfectly honest, their capital, to wherever they wanna go. What I think, startups like Unybrands and ourselves at Seller University and in the service side of the industry is we’re able to be a little bit more agile. So like you said, being able to reach somebody on their phone, whether they're at home or in the office, making some quick pivots or adaptations to the market is really something that startups like ours can do that aren't unencumbered by red tape. And I gotta check with middle management, then we have to have a meeting every Tuesday and so on and so forth. So I totally agree. Let's break it down to very simple terms. For somebody who's listening, who has a brand on Amazon, they've heard this buzzword aggregator before, Mark, can you explain to us what is an FBA aggregator?
Mark Goldfinger (04:07):
Yeah, absolutely. So the word aggregator is a taboo word that's been thrown around. I would say over the past couple years, you've had some really large buyers or aggregators pop up with heavy deep pockets that VCs were throwing money at, to really help buy brands that were doing well on Amazon. And that had, year over year growth to buy them, acquire them. Most of them had the founder exit, and then they took that business on, they had a brand manager and operating team, a supply chain team, a marketing team really help own the brand and look to grow it anywhere from 20, 30, 40X year over year. I will say though, just for those listening, you know, Unybrands, we actually don't consider ourselves an aggregator. We consider ourselves as a strategic buyer.
Mark Goldfinger (04:57):
And the reason for that is for us, the goal or the business plan to our investors was never go out and acquire as many brands as you can. We don't wanna be a serial acquirer. For us, we really want to make sure that at the end of the day, we can get up and say wholeheartedly that we're proud of every single brand we've acquired. And for us, we really put quality over the quantity or the amount of brands we look to acquire. So I think, you know, you have a lot of aggregators, acquirers, strategic buyers out there, but all in all, we all look to serve the same purpose, which on one hand is providing founders with their perfect exit strategy. And we can talk a little bit about what that looks like because it's gonna be different for every single brand owner out there. And then also on the commercial side to really help grow these brands and to take them to new heights.
Martin Zerrudo (05:51):
When you encounter a founder….And thank you so much for that Mark. When you encounter a founder, who's unsure, I'd love to exit. The EBITDA multiples looks lovely. But what if I can make this even bigger? What if I can add a couple more products really grow this brand and come back to you after a year and say, “Hey”. How do you navigate that conversation with a founder who's interested in exiting, but still believes that, under their leadership that they can still grow it even bigger than it is right now?.
Mark Goldfinger (06:19):
it's a great question. If we take a step back, I head up all of our business development and every focus on everything at the Unybrands hold co level pre-acquisition, so really focusing on building our relationships with people like yourselves, with agencies, with partners, with brokers, with consultants, and then of course with founders. And learning about what they're looking for, what they want to get out, and where do they wanna see their brand reach under their leadership. And then if they were to pass it off, where do they wanna see the brand get even further? And what you learn is that every founder has a different definition of what success looks like. And one of the questions that my team always asks the founders while they're doing their qualifying or their preliminary due diligence is, if you had an additional $500,000, what would you look to do with your brand?
Mark Goldfinger (07:11):
And a lot of them are like, “Oh, I would spend it on product development, or I would spend it on getting more inventory so that I could lower down my costs and really grow that side or I would expand internationally”. Or some of them are like, “You know what, I'd probably look to close for a little bit, because I'm really exhausted. And this side project has turned into a $5 million a year side project that's doing really well, but I don't want to do it anymore.” So for us, we're able to really understand what they're looking for and then go from there.
Martin Zerrudo (07:40):
And your approach to that, due diligence. How do you coach founders to ultimately make that decision, to decide to sign with you?
Mark Goldfinger (07:48):
I think one is understanding what they want from a partner. We are not a buyer, or we are a buyer but we're not just a buyer. We want to be their partner. And sometimes that means we pay them out by 90% cash at close and then 10% through some earnouts or stability. And they go, they sit on a beach, they hang out, they relax, they just got $10 million. They're really happy. That’s one partnership. Then we have another partnership where we have people that don't want to actually give up their brand, but they know that they can't grow it any further without additional support and help from a strategic buyer like ourselves. So what we'll do is we'll actually look to acquire their brand. And then we'll not only bring on the brand and integrate it into the Unybrands platform. And then continue to grow it and have a brand manager come on and help. But we'll actually bring the founder on as well. Sometimes they'll come on for 6 to 12 months as a consultant and other times they'll come on for two plus years as a fulltime employee. We acquired a few brands last year where we actually had the founders join Unybrands and are actually our brand managers for those specific verticals and categories that we require.
Martin Zerrudo (08:58):
Mark Goldfinger (08:59):
Martin Zerrudo (08:59):
That's very smart.
Mark Goldfinger (09:00):
I always like to say every brand is different. So every deal should be different. Like I said, at the beginning, our goal is to give the best exit strategy to each founder. And that's gonna vary between brands.
Martin Zerrudo (09:12):
When you say, you know, certain founders will hit a plateau or a peak in which they can't scale anymore. What are some of the telltale signs that you see that, “Hey, maybe you could use a little bit of our help”?
Mark Goldfinger (09:22):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean the biggest sign of fatigue in my opinion is their revenue just starts to either stay flat or decline. Now take a step back. Obviously, there's a lot going on in the market. There's a lot of variables that could go into that. Amazon makes it difficult with how much inventory they can keep on stock, whether or not you bring on a 3PL, there's so many different outlets there. But a lot of the time, what we'll see is you'll see a founder just get tired. They're not putting enough effort in, they're not putting enough energy into it. They're waking up exhausted. They know what they need to do, but they're fatigued and don't want to continue doing it to the full effect that they can.
Martin Zerrudo (10:05):
Do you ever, I'm gonna just be super candid. So we're obviously an agency. Have you ever advised a founder to work with an agency?
Mark Goldfinger (10:13):
Yeah. Absolutely. So one of the things that, we'll talk about after this podcast, you and I, is how do we leverage Seller Universe to like come on as one of our partners. We have a one pager that we use if a founder isn't ready to sell, but needs some more funding. We have partners that we leverage there and we'll introduce them, if they want to talk to a broker, but they're not sure yet because they just wanna learn more about the space. I want to coach them obviously, but we wanna be very open and candid and let them speak with whoever they want to make that right decision. And then of course, we have a few agencies that we work with, depending if it's PPC, if it's inventory management, whatever it might be, we try and point them in the right direction. And then we say, “Look, let's continue to stay in touch”. We add them into what we call our nurturing area.
Martin Zerrudo (11:00):
It's like an incubation.
Mark Goldfinger (11:01):
Exactly. We'll continue to touch base with them every quarter, every six months, see how they're doing. Are they still enjoying it? Do they still have the passion to grow their brand? And if they do, we never want to take that away from them, right?. We're not trying to be, the big conglomerate and steal your brand. We want you to run your baby as far as you can. And then we want to know that you're excited to pass it over to us. And when you look back in two or three years, you're gonna not only be really proud of what you started, but you're gonna be excited that you trusted Unybrands.
Martin Zerrudo (11:29):
When you refer them to agencies, I'm sure you got a usual pushback, like it's gonna eat into my margins and my investing money now, that probably could go back into my brand. How do you navigate those concerns?
Mark Goldfinger (11:43):
Typically a lot of the times we'll let the agencies do the sales pitch there. For us, I'd say, these are some of the partners that we work with. It might eat into margin, but overall it's gonna help you in the long run. Sometimes you gotta spend the money to make the money, as we always say. But I think there's pros and cons to doing that.
Martin Zerrudo (12:02):
Absolutely. Well, how long typically is that incubation period? Six months?
Mark Goldfinger (12:06):
It could go anywhere from 3 months to 12 months, right? Unybrands started back in September of 2021, so we're less than two years old. But we've had a lot of hyper growth and we've done a lot of things, to the best that we're able to, and really ensure that we're building a strong foundation. And then brands that aren't ready to sell, we want to continue staying in touch with them and we don't want to push them. We want them to know that they have a good partner when they're ready.
Martin Zerrudo (12:33):
If a founder has spoken to you, they've already spoken to others who may not be strategic buyers, but are considered as aggregators? How do you differentiate yourself and say, “Hey, you wanna work with us”?
Mark Goldfinger (12:45):
Yeah, absolutely. So I think there are three big things that differentiate Unybrands from the other buyers out there. The first is our technology. If you take it all the way back to the beginning, we actually spent the first six months operating behind the steep scenes in what we called stealth mode. And the reason for that was we really wanted to make sure that when we came to say, we wanted to play in the sandbox and the Amazon ecosystem or the ecosystem that we had a very strong foundation, and a lot of that started with our technology. We wanted to make sure that the way we integrate brands onto the platform, the way we report on them, the way we grow them, the way we operate them, we're it allows us to hold true to our promise to our investors, to grow these brands 20, 30, 40% year over year, number one. Number two, very category focused. So rather than going out and being a Jack of all trades and trying to acquire every single brand in e-commerce, we focus on eight specific categories. It’s because these are categories that us, as a leadership team, feel that we are experts in, and that we can ensure if we acquire a brand within these categories. We know that it's gonna grow to the next level.
Martin Zerrudo (13:52):
Are those categories public?
Mark Goldfinger (13:55):
They are. The categories range from juvenile, baby, garden and outdoors, sports and fitness, lifestyle arts, home and culinary, personal care, pet care, home care, and then supplements.
Martin Zerrudo (14:12):
Is there a thematic or a narrative or an intentional reason why those eight specific categories?
Mark Goldfinger (14:18):
Absolutely. So we broke it up into consumables and durables. And then we also took a look at the consumer personas across these categories and saw that if we do it correctly, which we were working on doing. If we do it correctly or when we do it correctly, I should say, we're able to really start cross-selling a lot and drive that consumer persona. And then I would say the third thing that I think helps differentiate us, is that from day one, we've operated on both sides of the Atlantic. So as we've said, we have offices in New York, Miami, London, Berlin, Seattle, China and Shanghai, as well as one of our senior people in Hong Kong. And for us, we look to not only make acquisitions across the Atlantic, but we also look to leverage the capabilities to really help grow brands internationally. So it's not only about taking a brand on Amazon and growing it to Shopify other d to c platforms. It's really, how do we take this brand from the US and put it onto the international marketplaces.
Martin Zerrudo (15:19):
That's fantastic. Say they love the pitch, Mark. They wanna work with Unybrands. What's usually the turnover time from meeting you and then being going through the due diligence and then being acquired and in an onboarded team?
Mark Goldfinger (15:30):
We're very proud of the system and integration we've put in place. I think we have a best in class, investments and integration team and our team is actually the one team. They take care of not only all of the due diligence, pre LOI, but also help run in quarterback the entire integration to make sure it's really smooth and nothing falls between the cracks. So I would say from the time some of the founders speak with someone on my team to the time where they're handing over the keys. Typically, you're looking at somewhere between six to eight weeks.
Martin Zerrudo (16:04):
Wow. That's really fast. That's fantastic. In those six to eight weeks, what are some things that founders can do to help expedite the process, or at least what can they do to avoid making the process a little bit longer or challenging?
Mark Goldfinger (16:16):
Know their numbers and have their finances in order. One of the first things we do, post LOI, is work with the founder to rebuild the P&L to make sure we're able to add it into our model. And from there typically, there's a lot of back and forth. We find that when founders do know their numbers and come really prepared with all their financial figures, this process runs much smoother. And we always try and work with the founders pre LOI on doing this to make sure that when they see the LOI that has our multiple and our headline, that's something that when we're going to close, we can stand behind.
Martin Zerrudo (16:52):
Oh, that's fantastic. What would you say is, an acquisition or at least is that the correct term?
Mark Goldfinger (17:01):
Martin Zerrudo (17:01):
What's an acquisition that you guys have done recently that really made you feel proud as somebody who's part of Unybrands?
Mark Goldfinger (17:07):
Great question, Martin.So about three, two and a half weeks ago, we announced it internally to our team. And you'll start to see some things if you're on WeChat or if you're following us on LinkedIn. We made our first acquisition in China which was something that we weren't necessarily ready to do this year. But we moved one of our first employees out to China to be our GM of China expansion and help with the Asia market. And she came across an incredible brand, working with a good broker and partner of ours. We took a look at it. We got really excited. We realized it was growing and there was a lot more that we could do. There were a lot of synergies within one of the verticals that we already have and have success in. And we said, you know what, let's make a play for it. And we were able to do the acquisition in under eight weeks. And since we've closed, it's become one of our number one selling ASINs.
Martin Zerrudo (18:08):
That's fantastic. What were the challenges of acquiring a brand in China?
Mark Goldfinger (18:12):
Supply chain, I mean, where do we start? Supply chain becomes a large issue, copycats, metoos, making sure that the founder doesn't then go and start up a brand right away with all of his relationships. It can get a little bit complicated but we were excited about it. We took the risk.
Martin Zerrudo (18:31):
Are there other countries or emerging markets in the world that you guys are currently working on to also make acquisitions of brands from outside of China?
Mark Goldfinger (18:38):
Right now, our bigger focus, the majority focus for the 2022 roadmap is the US, the UK, and Germany. And then we'll slowly start to get into Paris and Italy. Of course we're open to everywhere to most places in Europe. And then I think as we get into 2023, we'll look to really see how we can expand further into Asia Pacific
Martin Zerrudo (19:01):
No, that's fantastic. So, what are some of the misnomers or mischaracterizations of those who are acquiring brands that give founders some hesitations, and even engaging with people like you?
Mark Goldfinger (19:14):
What do you mean?
Martin Zerrudo (19:16):
Is there any kind of misconceptions about Unybrands or strategic buyers that give founders hesitancy in reaching out or being reached out to?
Mark Goldfinger (19:24):
Got it. I think there's been a lot of news in the market over the past couple months. Last summer, everyone was throwing money at aggregators or strategic buyers. People were talking about multiples which is how they value the business.
Martin Zerrudo (19:39):
Mark Goldfinger (19:40):
Oh, absolutely. I don't know that we necessarily saw any 15s, but we were making plays at six and a half, seven times, trying to compete for some, great brands. And ultimately, I think we really ended up being a little bit more reserved and holding back, which I'm really impressed by. Even though we wanted the brand, we knew that pain seven and a half times just wasn't the right call and wasn't our business model. Now multiples have definitely come back down. You're seeing between three and a half and five for a high quality asset. And what I would recommend to sellers is to be proud of your business. Multiples have come down, but that doesn't mean you're not getting a fair value. I'm really proud of the way Unybrands goes out and values their businesses or the brands that we're speaking with. One of our ethos is fair, fast, and reliable to making sure that we give the founders exactly what they deserve, and that they're happy with it. We truly want everyone to be happy with the deal. And if they're not, it's not an area that we wanna win in.
Martin Zerrudo (20:41):
Are you able to disclose like the ratio of acquiring versus, they weren't able to make it?
Mark Goldfinger (20:49):
I won't say absolutely. I'll give some rough numbers. I think right now we have, a little bit over 80% close rate. We really look to stand behind all of our LOIs. As you get further into the pre LOI due diligence process with Unybrands, you'll quickly learn what our fourth differentiator is, that's the amount due diligence work we do pre LOI. So our investment team will put together about a 60 to 75 page memo for our investment committee. We'll present it during our ICS on Thursday. We'll present not only what we think is why we like the brand and how we can grow it, but we'll also present to our IC what we think the pricing structure and model should be.
Mark Goldfinger (21:37):
We'll get that signed off and only then we'll go and present the LOI to the founder. This allows them to really have comfort seeing the LOI and knowing that an investment committee has already signed off on it. It's not another team that's not necessarily connected with the investment committee. So we know that we're ready to spend this money, which allows us to really go right through our post LOI due diligence as well. Not necessarily having to focus too much on the financials, but really focus more on integrating the brand into the Unybrands atmosphere.
Martin Zerrudo (22:08):
Are there certain tips, because you're kind of seeing it at the, I don't wanna say the tail end, but maybe like, as they approach their peak for those who are just getting into the FBA game, you know, they hear about the courses and they see the videos on TikTok and, “Oh my God, I can be a millionaire in a month selling private labeling on Amazon”. Are there certain tips that you could provide to those who wanna get into the FBA game?
Mark Goldfinger (22:30):
Try and find a white space, try and find a category or find something that you don't think has been tapped into. Leverage your own personal experiences. What could you use to help make your life a little bit better from a tool or a quote unquote product or ASIN perspective and then really make sure that you're passionate about it. Growing a brand on Amazon takes a lot of work. These founders are hustlers, they're tenacious, they're entrepreneurial and they're getting the job done. They're waking up in the middle of the night, thinking about what could go wrong and they write down 10 ideas of how they could look to prevent it. They know this space really well. They study the PPC market listing optimization. They're really looking to make sure that they're in touch with their supply chain and they let the noise drown out and just keeping their head down. If this is a market that you wanna get into, I highly recommend it. I think it's a lot of fun, but make sure you're passionate and excited about it. It's easy to look at founders and see how successful they were, but don't mistake it for them waking up one day and being like, great. I now have a $4 million brand.
Martin Zerrudo (23:42):
That's right. You get as much as you put into it, for sure.
Mark Goldfinger (23:45):
Absolutely. And I think taking advantage of leveraging agencies, especially ones like yourselves, you guys add so much value to these brands. You get them to a great spot. You can teach them, coach them and bring them to a place where they're finally ready to sell.
Martin Zerrudo (24:00):
I have some sales numbers here and it's so true, like, “Okay”. So even if you were to dump a couple of thousand dollars into working with a service provider right, an agency or what have you, if revenue is going up 20% every single month, like the return on investment without even DSP being incorporated into it is without question. So if you're looking for that exit within the next three to five years, then, like you said, it takes money to make money. PPC plus DSP leads to five X times, you know, conversion having all the foundations placed retail ready, all of that stuff is part and parcel of being successful on Amazon. You can't just have a garbage listing, throw $10,000 of PPC and be like, “Hey! Look, I made so much money”.
Mark Goldfinger (24:39):
Martin Zerrudo (24:41):
You have some more visibility from the strategic buyer side with inflation happening, this looming recession. What are some of the whispers that you're hearing in the FBA space that we should be ready for?
Mark Goldfinger (24:55):
I think be prepared for multiples that aren't, six and a half times. We'll start there, be prepared to set your expectations. And if it's an expectation that you don't want to sell for, you don't have to sell. I don't think necessarily multiples are gonna go back to six, seven times. I think there was a little bit of a bubble and I think we're starting to flatten it out. But I think if you've built a great brand, continue to talk to either buyers or if you're going through a broker go for that. I think I continue to know that at least on the Unybrands side, you might not hear all the news about the money we've raised, and how many employees we have for the next round. For us, we've really done a great job of keeping our head down.
Mark Goldfinger (25:42):
But at the same time, we're still acquiring. We actually sent around a close one email, which we call a Unybrands of another brand that we officially integrated this afternoon. Which is an exciting time.
Martin Zerrudo (25:56)
Mark Goldfinger (25:57)
Thank you. Yeah. It's been an exciting 18 months, but I really think for founders, try and drown out some of that noise, continue to keep your head down and grind it out. And when you are ready to sell, make sure you're talking to the buyers that can move forward with their acquisitions.
Martin Zerrudo (26:14):
Would you also extend that conservative outlook to marketing spend, whether it's ad spend or hiring an agency or acquiring. I did read on a couple of LinkedIn posts like a looming recession or during the recession is the worst time to cut back on marketing costs, even though marketing is always the first that gets cut.
Mark Goldfinger (26:32):
Absolutely. And being a sales guy myself, I understand the value of marketing more so than a lot of others. I think, now you are gonna have people who are going to cut back on luxuries. If you can show how your product is not necessarily a luxury, but really focus on the marketing aspect and show how it's a need to have. It's only gonna benefit and bring in an agency and people who know where to spend and can look through your spending and see how to better optimize. It is only gonna be more beneficial in the long run.
Martin Zerrudo (27:03):
For sure. So let's do a little bit of role play, Mark. I'm a founder, I'm right on the cusp of signing up and I say, “Hey, Mark. What are you gonna do for my brand? Say, I sign it up, handing the keys to my kingdom to you and Unybrands. How are you guys really gonna grow this? Is there some secret sauce? Is there something that you and Amazon are doing that I don't know about? How do you build this thing?
Mark Goldfinger (27:20):
Everybody wants to know the secret sauce. So I'll give a little bit, behind the kimono if you will. So we have what we call our proprietary model called the Rob model, ready optimized boost. And it's probably, let's call it a 200 lever model that we use to really help make sure we're growing the brand to the best that we can. So we have to call it, 75 to a hundred pieces of different levers that we're pulling to make sure that the brand is ready to eventually get optimized. We're looking at the listing, we're looking at the marketplace, we're looking at inventory, how are you stocking everything? How are you pricing everything? Then we'll take it to get optimized. We'll start to look further into there. We'll see, can we bring this internationally?
Mark Goldfinger (28:07):
Can we spend more on product development? Can we really help grow this brand? And then we'll look to eventually boost it and grow it to that 20, 30, 40 times. Are there things that we we’re necessarily doing, that you might not be aware of? Not always, we definitely, we've built a best in class team, really proud of our analysts all the way up to our senior leadership. I think everyone's in the trenches grinding this out. But a big thing for us is that, we have additional resources. We have the capital, we're really able to help grow these brands. But we want to just take what we can from the founder during our post LOI due diligence. We spend a lot of time with the founder learning about the day in and day outs of how they operate the business. We have them work through that integration with us to ensure that when they do hand over, when you hand over the keys, nothing falls through the cracks and we're able to carry the brand forward without a slowdown.
Martin Zerrudo (29:07):
For sure, without giving anything proprietary. Are there certain growth hacks or tips that you can give a founder to say, “Hey, you might not be looking here, but this is something you guys should try”?.
Mark Goldfinger (29:18):
It's a tough one. It's always tough.
Martin Zerrudo (29:22):
It'll be our secret. I promise.
Mark Goldfinger (29:24):
This'll be our secret and all of our listeners. I would sa, if they really want to know more, they should reach out. And we're always happy to talk to the founders.I think for us, we love growing brands internationally. The fact that we've already dealt with a lot of the tax stuff and the VAT numbers bringing brands into the UK allows us to really leverage existing entities and grow them quicker.
Martin Zerrudo (29:46):
Oh man. I had my next question ready. Do you have any questions for me? I'm just kidding.
Mark Goldfinger (29:54):
What are you guys seeing from an agency perspective, slow down in brands coming to you, how's that kind of been working for you?
Martin Zerrudo (30:03):
One, I feel like there's a lot of shift in talent in a lot of the internal teams that we work with in different brands. You see people exiting, people moving horizontally to a different role, and it kind of creates a challenge in keeping the momentum going because we're dealing with a different person, a different strategy. Hey, we're just gonna pause for now while we replace this person who recently left. So, I think just from a talent perspective, we're seeing a lot of movement pre-recession, right? Because I think, people might be a little bit worried about where the economy is headed. So they're making their own changes personally in their careers, which is totally fine, you know? So that talent aspect of it is something that we have to adapt to. Secondly, ad spend obviously takes money to make money.
Martin Zerrudo (30:49):
You wanna see those, the ROAS numbers go up, but at the same time, some brands are allocating that ad spend in other areas just to be a little bit more, either liquid or just to be a little bit more cash flow positive and ready, and bracing themselves in case something were to happen catastrophic in the economy or something in their space that they're ready for it. So for us, it's definitely a challenge that push and pull of managing client expectations to let them know that, a 10 ROAS off like such a minimal ad spend versus 6 ROAS on something significantly more, you're obviously gonna make more money off of, but it's a push and pull. So definitely to your point, it is managing those expectations and just maybe, drowning out some of that, doomsday talk, I'd like to point out to our listeners during the last two years, the pandemic, when the whole world turned upside down, it was a boon for e-commerce, massive.
Martin Zerrudo (31:41):
And it was a boon for the aggregator strategic buyer space where you're seeing 6, 7, sometimes 10, 10 X. So what will this recession look like? I'm not sure how will that affect, cause in our situation in Toronto, there's like real estate that's involved and certain bubbles that might be popping soon. So we don't know, but at the end of the day, where do people buy their essentials? Where do people buy things, whether it's a luxury or a need it's Amazon, you know? And now more than ever, you don't want to not have a voice in that conversation, whether people are talking about recession or they're not, they're still all talking on the Amazon marketplace. And so that's kind of what we've been trying to tell all of our brands. So question for you, Mark, and thank you for that question. What is the process in vetting potential founders that you guys would like to acquire?
Mark Goldfinger (32:28):
Say that again, Martin? I think I lost you there for a second.
Martin Zerrudo (32:31):
Oh, no worries. No worries. Can you hear me now?
Mark Goldfinger (32:33):
Now I can.
Martin Zerrudo (32:34):
Okay. Got it. So we're talking to Mark Goldfinger from Unybrands, Senior Director of Growth. Mark, what is your process in finding the right founders to reach out to? Do you have an internal algorithm that you use to scan certain buyers on Amazon? Do you have a referral program where you have organic brokers?
Mark Goldfinger (32:52):
We got all of them. We got all of it.
Martin Zerrudo (32:53):
Mark Goldfinger (32:55):
I think I've built the best in class business development team who I've been really proud of all the work that they've been doing. So we have our own proprietary tools. We call it project Achilles, which I'm happy to share the name with. We really do a lot of cold outreach, we start at the very top of the funnel looking at starting out categories, BSR, revenue, average selling price, location of the seller, and really narrowing that list down from thousands down to couple hundreds and then really putting them into what we call our high touch, low touch cadences, building out our cold outreach plans, reaching out to them, trying to get them excited about the prospect of being acquired, and going from there. And then look to get them on a phone, walk them through our process and see if it's a brand that fits for us. We also of course work with referral partners and partnership and relationships. And then of course we appreciate all the brokers.We know a lot of brands go through brokers. I think there's a lot of benefits there. The founder will have to pay the broker in most cases, but I think they really help make sure that you are fully prepared. Your numbers are aligned and you can really go into a much smoother process, post LOI.
Martin Zerrudo (34:12):
Post these acquisitions. Who would you say are the top three that excited the Rob model and you're like, “Man, we're so proud. This is we're stamping the Unybrands stamp of approval. These are the brands that we think we've really crushed and skyrocketed, once we've acquired them” Are you able to name some brands?
Mark Goldfinger (34:28):
So, I'm not, we are not public with our brands. We've acquired, just shy of two dozen of them. One of the things I will shout out, is that I've been really impressed with our supplements vertical has grown, 35% year over year. And that's really just one of many successes that we've seen so far.
Martin Zerrudo (34:48):
No, that's fantastic. I'm gonna shift gears real quick, Mark. As we near the end of our episode here. Who has helped you along the way? You obviously went through WeWork six years, you're now at Unybrands, whose been the ones that have really been stalwart supporters of your growth and your career?
Mark Goldfinger (35:03):
Yeah, absolutely. One of our co-founders, Eugen Miropolski has been a great friend and mentor of mine. He's really helped me while I was at WeWork. And now here, really throwing me into just incredible situations and being like, “You can figure this out, you can do it”, really being able to teach me the entrepreneurial spirit and be like, “Let's just get this done. Let's not red cross tape out of the way”. Our executive team at Unybrands has been above and beyond. And, I've been really lucky to work with them as well.
Martin Zerrudo (35:39):
In your entrepreneurial journey, were there certain coaches that you subscribed to, were there certain podcasts that you listened to that helped you stay motivated? What tools did you utilize to keep you ambitious and push you?
Mark Goldfinger (35:52):
Yeah. So funny that you ask, I just started listening to a new podcast, to really help build up my leadership style. It's called, where is it? Farnam street. It's wisdom you can use, a lot of it talks about interpersonal skills, how to be a better leader, how to coach, how to develop, how to handle those tough conversations that as a manager, you don't always want to have, but also need to have to drive a high output team.
Martin Zerrudo (36:19):
That's fantastic. And any tools that you use in your day to day to keep everything functioning in your brain?
Mark Goldfinger (36:25):
Yeah, of course. I'm a big notebook guy. I really, love it. I love it. Every single day I come in, that's exactly how I start my day. Really just going through the notebook, understanding my to-do seeing what I can cross off the list. I'm a big box guy and checking things off or crossing them out at the end of the day, even when it's been absolutely hectic, you can still go through and look, and now that you've accomplished a few things. But I'm a big virtual guy, big visual guy, excuse me
Martin Zerrudo (36:57):
I see. In your personal growth journey, what would you say has been your proudest moment? And then what was your biggest mistake that you learned from?
Mark Goldfinger (37:06):
I think my biggest mistake was, I was asked to fly into a new market back in my WeWork days. And I was asked to help kind of fix the market from a sales perspective.
Martin Zerrudo (37:16):
Fix the market. What does that mean?
Mark Goldfinger (37:18):
Sales weren't doing well. I need to go in and try and help, get the market back on track, help with sales, start showing growth from the number perspective. And I went in and I just started trying to change things. And it was the first time where I really learned that you can't just drop into a random spot and assume what you think works in one place will automatically work somewhere else. You really need to take a step back, look and listen, and then take it from there. I think that really goes in one of the best quotes a mentor of mine gave me was when your team succeeds, your team succeeds, when your team fail, you failed. It's not my job to take credit for my team and their success, it's the team's job. I wanna make sure that they're seen in their success, but when they fail or when their struggles, I need to make sure as a leader that you're able to provide that air cover, and that you take that on because that's your fault if the team's not being set up for success. And then I think of one of my proudest moments….
Mark Goldfinger (38:20):
One of my past moments is being at Unybrand. I joined as employee number five, I've joined as number five and we're now over….
Martin Zerrudo (38:28):
Wow, get that equity, Mark.
Mark Goldfinger (38:29):
And now we're over 110 employees, helping us grow, helping shape the culture, and really just making sure that we're creating a place that people want to come work for. And that founders can look back three to four years time and be really proud that they sold their business to Unybrands.
Martin Zerrudo (38:46):
That's fantastic. It's so refreshing to hear somebody, a young person, very ambitious and very motivated to really have that passion with e-commerce. Like we say, over here, we scale passionate eCommerce brands.
Mark Goldfinger (38:55):
I love it.
Martin Zerrudo (38:56):
You know, when we talk to these founders who look to get some of our help, I always say that it's like our second slide. You can make money in a lot of different ways. You don't wanna do it working a-holes. You wanna do it working with people who are equally passionate and see the value for value. It's so much more fun and it doesn't make me feel like waking up at eight o'clock for a meeting. I mean, it's still tough. It's eight o'clock in the morning, but it's not as tough as working with people who aren't so fun to work with.
Mark Goldfinger (39:21):
I love it. Well, thankfully I'm a morning person.
Martin Zerrudo (39:24):
Oh, there you go.
Mark Goldfinger (39:24):
And the day starts a lot earlier than that.
Martin Zerrudo (39:27):
Are you a tea guy? Coffee guy?
Mark Goldfinger (39:29):
Big coffee guy.
Martin Zerrudo (39:30):
Big coffee guy. Nice. Who's there to go to the cup of Joe?
Mark Goldfinger (39:35):
I mean, I do so many different crafts, beans….
Martin Zerrudo (39:38):
Mark Goldfinger (39:39):
I kind of subscribe to a subscription to do, so every week and a half.
Martin Zerrudo (39:43):
Mark Goldfinger (39:44):
I got a new bag of beans. We got a full journal back home that she takes care of. And write down and record what we like, what we don't like.
Martin Zerrudo (39:53):
Mark Goldfinger (39:55):
We're working on it. Nowhere near.
Martin Zerrudo (39:57):
Mark Goldfinger (39:58):
Martin Zerrudo (39:59):
Have you tried a Death wish?
Mark Goldfinger (40:01):
I have not tried Death wish. No.
Martin Zerrudo (40:02):
Okay. Have you tried Don Pablo?
Mark Goldfinger (40:04):
Martin Zerrudo (40:05):
Okay. We've worked with both of them. I’m friends with the CEO.
Mark Goldfinger (40:09):
I gotta look at this Don Pablo.
Martin Zerrudo (40:11):
Hundred percent from Columbia, the best. So we're talking to Mark Goldfinger from Unybrands. Mark, how can people reach out to you? How can they find more about Unybrands?
Mark Goldfinger (40:21):
Mark@unybrands.com, firstname.lastname@example.org , please reach out. I'd love to talk to you more. If anyone has questions about selling their business, what Unybrands will value their business at, how we can help them grow, or just wanna have another conversation or possibly a cup of coffee? I'm always happy, I'm based out of New York, but I'm always traveling. So hopefully I could see someone, somewhere soon. I'll also be at the Amazon powwow conference down in west Palm beach next week, Tuesday, Wednesday. So if you're there, come say hello.
Martin Zerrudo (40:56):
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Mark, for joining us. Hopefully, this is not the last time we really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you again.
Mark Goldfinger (41:00):
Of course. Thank you.