Meet The VFA Accelerator Teams: Freddy Adenuga of Sweat Seal
The Venture for America Accelerator is a three-month program open to VFA alumni and Fellows at the conclusion of their two-year Fellowship. On August 1st, seven teams descended on Detroit to begin working full time on their companies. Thanks to generous support from the William Davidson Foundation and Quicken Loans and with help from the Venture for America team and a wide range of industry leaders, Accelerator teams have the time, space, and funding to focus solely on building their fledgling companies.
Meet Freddy Adenuga, a 2015 Fellow and Founder of Sweat Seal. Sweat Seal makes custom undershirts that prevent pit stains. Here, Freddy talks building a company in a VFA City, honest marketing, and the two guarantees of running a business.
What’s it like building a company in a VFA City?
I did my fellowship in Columbus, Ohio and I can easily say that I’ll be spending a good chunk of my life living there. Nicknamed ‘The Biggest Small Town in America’ what drew me to Columbus is the genuine commitment all residents have to the success and happiness of everyone who lives there, both old and new. Anyone in the city from the mayor, to a head of a VC is ready to make time for you if asked. Once on my birthday I was having breakfast with a co-worker, and randomly I was given a business card by a stranger. That stranger said they liked my idea for Sweat Seal, and would love to connect me to a banker they knew. That kind of kindness is no strange occurrence in Columbus, and is part of why I like to call Columbus my new hometown.
What lessons learned during your Fellowship still impact the way you work today?
In my time as a Fellow I’ve come to learn that persistence pays off in peculiar ways. Many times throughout my fellowship I found myself passionately going after various goals I had for myself or Sweat Seal, and simply applying brute will force as a method of getting what I wanted. Sometimes that worked–often it didn’t– but what I found is that the people around me appreciated my hard work and commitment to my passions and offered me unique opportunities I often would never have known existed. This engrained in me that you never know what dividends hard work will end up earning you.
How did you find your earliest customers?
I love honest marketing. I believe that if you have a good product, you should put your product to the test to show just how effective it is. For Sweat Seal, being that it’s designed to prevent sweat stains, I decided to demonstrate how strong it was by going on a treadmill for 6 hours live on Facebook to show just how long it lasted. Over 3,000 people viewed that live stream, and it gave Sweat Seal a social credibility words could never have earned it. Being bold, honest, and direct was how I was able to earn Sweat Seal early success.
Building a business is a tough process. How have you learned to embrace the challenges?
Challenges and taxes are the two guarantees of running a business. I’ve learned that challenges are best embraced when one is willing to be open, honest, and quick about solving them. People are surprisingly calm and understanding when you present them with clear facts and explain the logic behind any tough decision you have to make. For Sweat Seal this meant being upfront with customers if we had any unexpected shipping delay, and letting them know what went wrong and how we fixed the issue. When you treat customers like a friend, they’re often are friendly right back in return.
What readers can do to help you get to your next step or milestone?
Right now Sweat Seal is still receiving orders via Indiegogo if you go to SweatSeal.com so feel free to get someone sealed with a gift they’ll love! Also if anyone reading knows anyone with connections with inventory financing, please pass along my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you’re toying with a fledgling idea, developing a side project, or preparing to launch a company, we have the resources, programming, and network to help you succeed once you’ve completed your two-year Fellowship. Our alumni have launched 41 companies that employ more than 195 people. Click here to find out how VFA can help you succeed.