Features Money Scale

Finding Success with a Business-to-Consumer Startup: Kendall Hope Tucker  

Some entrepreneurs can only fantasize about growing a company to the point of acquisition – taking an idea and scaling it higher and higher. Kendall Hope Tucker made it happen. She co-founded Knoq, a neighborhood outreach sales company, and then Fan Rewards, a business-to-consumer (B2C) service enabling creators to monetize their following through sponsorship. B2C models might be notoriously difficult to grow, but Tucker found her audience and startup success. You can, too.  

The path to B2C startup success  

If you’re new to the business world, you might think that B2C would be easier than trying to build relationships with other companies. You make a product, sell it and walk away with a tidy profit. What could go wrong?  

In reality, finding and motivating consumers to buy in is easier said than done. The secret to product-market fit, Tucker says, is to make them obsessed with you.  

“Building a company shouldn’t feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill every single day. It should feel like the boulder’s going down the hill so fast that you’re running to keep up with it.”  

Pay attention to your user feedback. Users won’t tell you what to build, but by understanding their driving fears and desires, you can build tremendous products. Also, be a customer of your own product. For example, on Fan Rewards, Tucker not only built close connections with the creators but used the platform herself. She was right there with the other users, checking notifications, earning points, and rushing to support her favorite content creators.  

Fundraising and development: the B2C side  

Most of the funding for Tucker’s second business came from those who had invested in her first company, Knoq. Since Knoq was a business-to-business startup, she made connections with investors during the development process for company number two. The Fan Rewards team raised $2 million before they even settled on an idea, and then another million once they launched.  

If you’re fundraising, though, stay mindful. Big paychecks can come with strings attached.  

“We were actually turning money away,” Tucker said. “One of the biggest mistakes founders can make is taking too much money [and giving away their ownership] when they don’t know what they’re doing. It essentially guarantees that you, as the founder, don’t have a good outcome – unless you get very, very lucky.”  

In general, stay vigilant about your cap table, company ownership and your desired results.   

So, what’s the acquisition process like?  

Exciting – but overwhelming. In a blog post, Tucker compares herself to the old man in Disney’s “Up.”  

“I was fairly burned out, and suddenly my house was caterwauling around attached to a ton of balloons, and I needed to find a good landing spot for it.”  

Despite some bumps, she did land safely. The acquisition happened while Fan Rewards had about 50,000 users but was still figuring out its business model. A fintech company named Future offered them a buyout. Tucker and her co-founder agreed it was a good fit. Future gives customers cash rewards for taking green actions. Tucker found it ethically compelling and knew their rewards model could help Future scale to the next level. 

Following the acquisition, Tucker is taking a break from founder life; she’s now the head of product at Future, learning more about fintech and investing in early-stage startups.  

What’s her big advice to female founders?  

First: how well are you using social media?  

Finding an audience, she says, isn’t all guesswork. The success of Fan Rewards was due in large part to her personal social media savvy. While the almighty algorithm is fickle, there are ways to create content more likely to go viral.  

Her tried-and-true guidelines for short-form video:  

  • Create a hook in the first half-second.  
  • Throw the audience off balance by adding a surprise at the end of the video to entice them to rewatch it.  
  • Encourage people to comment on the video. One hack is to misspell words in the video’s captions, prompting people to correct you in the comments.  
  • Tap into people’s inherent sense of FOMO (fear of missing out): that anxiety that makes them want to download, buy or use your product today.  
  • Hop on trends, including trending audio, dances or filters.  

Of course, strategies change all the time, so stay on top of it through research. And consider why you even want to go viral in the first place. A small, deeply committed audience in a targeted niche can be much more valuable than a massive, random audience.  

Second: don’t compare yourself to others  

When you first get involved in founder spaces, you’ll meet people who seem like they have everything together. It can make you feel awful about yourself. But these people are struggling in their own ways, just like everyone else. People mask their insecurities. You’re likely doing better than you think you are.  

Make friends with other founders who are willing to share their experiences. Make genuine connections with those who can share their turbulence with you – it happens to everyone, and having connections that help you know you’re not alone is invaluable.  

“Don’t get stressed by other people’s success,” Tucker said. “You should celebrate your friends and for strangers. You don’t know what’s actually happening behind closed doors.”  

Interested in more conversations with founders? Check out our interview with Marin Gardner about building a successful art-based business.  

Check for errors 160x600 1

©Innovation Women LLC 2022

Innovation Women ® is a registered trademark of Innovation Women LLC