‘I believe the greatest challenge is continuing to consistently believe in yourself and your vision’
Starting your own company is a brave decision, and the road to success is fraught with difficulty. So, why do business leaders start their own companies and what are they aiming to achieve when all is said and done? We spoke to Danny Winer, Founder of HexClad, one of the world’s fastest growing cookware brands, about his journey in business.
When did you establish your first business and what inspired you to set it up?
I decided to start my own company in 2013. I wasn’t sure what it would even look like, but I felt it was time to strike out on my own. I was the Vice President of another cookware company, and I went to the owner of the company and told him I believed our future was on social media.
As I held out my laptop to show him Facebook he cut me off mid-sentence and, with a condescending look, said “trust me kid, this Facebook thing is never gonna last” so I walked out of his office and decided that somehow I had to start my own business in the very near future.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or did the desire develop over time?
I originally moved to Los Angeles to be in the entertainment business. I feel that there is a bit of entrepreneurial spirit needed to be successful in that arena. As I became more of a traditional businessman, I saw many people that were enjoying a great level of success without much talent, hard work, or ingenuity.
Eventually, the idea that “I can do this as well, and hopefully better” did not leave my head. I think at some point one needs to listen to that little voice inside them and take the risk.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
I believe the greatest challenge is continuing to consistently believe in yourself and your vision. When I met the man who invented our patented laser, etching process I knew we were on to something big. The first true innovation I had seen in the Cookware space in my lifetime.
At that point they had just begun to experiment with making frying pans using this process. I worked diligently for a year and a half to perfect the Cookware with them for the western market. Consistently, I had to convince people that this was not a gimmick.
In 2016 and 2017 every meeting I attended ended with someone telling me that the Cookware space was too crowded and we weren’t going to be successful. They also laughed at my strategy to be a direct-to-consumer cookware brand. Everyone told us we needed to be in retail to succeed, but then would add that the retail space was too crowded so no one’s ever going to give you a chance.
When we tried to raise money, we heard the same thing. So my co-founder, Cole Mecray, and I looked at each other and said “let’s go for it”. We cashed out retirement accounts. We maxed out our credit cards. It’s scary to go all in. We just really believed in ourselves and our product.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you first started out?
More than wishing there was something that I knew, I think there is something that I wish I did differently. I wish I’d asked more questions or admitted when I needed help. There are so many knowledgeable people around. For the most part, people enjoy sharing knowledge and mentoring. Often, I was embarrassed or maybe I let my ego get in the way, but I felt like I had to figure everything out on my own.
As somebody who loves to learn and research, I would eventually get the right answers. However, I’m sure I wasted weeks of time occasionally. I would suggest always seeking out the most knowledgeable people in the area you’re trying to improve on and pick their brain. It’ll become very clear if they don’t want to help you. I find most are at least willing to give you 30 minutes of their time.
What is your top tip for other entrepreneurs?
Create a very direct roadmap. Go from point A to point B, then from point B to point C. I will always hear people talking about their “great idea“ and they want to do too many things in too many different directions.
Focus on your hero product or service. Perfect it before you start expanding your product/service line. Come up with a clear strategy to market. All businesses want to be Omni channel, but I believe in focusing channel by channel gives the greatest results.
What are your plans for the future?
I believe we have the best product in our category. The first true innovation or product that was actually designed to achieve sustainability through its durability and long life. So our plan is to share our message globally.
We want to inspire chefs around the world to find their passion for cooking and share that with their loved ones. Our goal at Hexclad is to introduce highly innovative products of superior quality. I believe this resonates with people.
Our goal is that people have enough trust in Hexclad, that they don’t even need to do any research when they’re purchasing kitchen products.
What would you like your legacy to be?
Legacy doesn’t really concern me on a personal level. However, if I’m spoken about, I would like it to reflect the fact that I have worked to create a company that was highly innovative and gave people true value for their money.
Also, that we built something that provided many incredible jobs and a warm, supportive, nurturing, work environment. To me, the most important thing in my life is the interactions that I have with the people I meet daily. Whether they are customers, team members, or business associates I want my actions to contribute to other individual successes.