Mark Kuhn, co-founder and CEO of Oat Foundry

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In our first year, Oat Foundry’s founders went without salaries to buy crit­i­cal ma­chin­ery and tools that would al­low the com­pany and its client-base to keep grow­ing. We de­velop ev­ery­thing from split-flap dis­plays to a cold-brew plant for brands and com­pa­nies.

A large first mile­stone Oat Foundry set was [hit­ting US$300k in rev­enue] to be able to pay nom­i­nal salaries while con­tin­u­ing to main­tain the growth tra­jec­tory of the business.

The first month we were able to do that was just af­ter our first birth­day, in Au­gust, 2014. It’s still one of my proud­est achieve­ments.

When Oat Foundry came up with this goal we were gen­er­at­ing rev­enue, but we knew that if it wasn’t enough to pay em­ploy­ees, con­trac­tors and our­selves it would only be a mat­ter of time be­fore we se­ri­ously fal­tered or failed.

The big­gest ob­sta­cle in achiev­ing this goal was our­selves – our own courage to ask for what we thought we were worth and de­served.

One of the most mean­ing­ful moves we made in the di­rec­tion of our first mile­stone was so­lid­i­fy­ing a re­li­able board of ad­vis­ers – men­tors to fill in skill gaps. They were the ones who en­cour­aged us to cre­ate a sep­a­rate sales po­si­tion, and kicked our butts to con­tin­u­ally sell, sell, sell!

Op­er­at­ing in a vac­uum is dan­ger­ous. It’s im­por­tant to pro­to­type early and of­ten – this is par­tic­u­larly true of any as­sump­tions and ideas.

Our next mile­stone is the suc­cess­ful launch of a prod­uct that gen­er­ates US$1 mil­lion-plus in profit. We’re on our way.

Sur­round your­self with smart peo­ple who will kick your butt.

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