For the past 7 years, Shopify has worked to inspire, motivate, and push budding entrepreneurs to fulfill their highest potential through our Build a Business competition.
But in 2017, we partnered with Tony Robbins to see what would happen if we encouraged existing, later-stage businesses to push even further and grow even BIGGER. “The opportunity to support more entrepreneurs is really what inspired us to create Build a BIGGER Business,” said Harley Finkelstein, Chief Operating Officer at Shopify.
Finkelstein explains that Shopify wanted to evolve the competition both in terms of what competitors were evaluated on and what they received for winning their respective categories.
“We focused on providing the right coaching, right tools, and right mindset for entrepreneurs looking to grow from $1 million to $50 million and beyond,” said Finkelstein.
Shopify invited entrepreneurs from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to compete in Build a BIGGER Business this year. Thousands of merchants from over 70 countries entered, and vied for access to:
- An opportunity to ring the New York Stock Exchange’s opening bell and display their company name displayed on the historical Wall Street façade.
- Strategic and creative coaching from Jean-François Bouchard, Co-Founder and Chairman of leading brand-building agency Sid Lee.
- Mentorship from serial entrepreneur Daymond John, NYSE president Tom Farley, and CheddarTV founder and former Buzzfeed president Jon Steinberg.
- A trip to Namale Resort & Spa in Fiji for five days of mentorship with some of the biggest entrepreneurs in the world, including Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Marie Forleo, and Debbie Sterling.
Businesses were judged on their increase of growth and scale in just a few months. To determine who truly achieved the aim of creating a BIGGER business, Shopify looked for companies that excelled in the following categories:
- Highest Total Gross Sales Gain
- Highest Percentage Growth
- Marketing Strategy
- Scale Strategy
- Fan Culture
- Disruption Model
Winners of Highest Total Gross Sales Gain and the Highest Percentage growth categories beat out competitors by the numbers. In addition to these winners, Tony Robbins and Shopify analyzed the top 50 companies in the competition.
Of the top performers, we hand-selected 6 businesses that stood out in specific categories as our winners for Best Marketing Strategy, Scale Strategy, Fan Culture, and Disruption Model.
Out of the thousands of businesses that worked tirelessly to achieve significant growth or scale between March and July 2017, these 8 topped the list in both growth and their respective categories.
Let’s meet the winners -- and learn what’s next for each business as they continue their upward trajectory toward massive success.
Highest Total Gross Sales Gain: Gymshark
Gymshark is a global fitness apparel and accessories brand for both men and women, targeting an international audience of 18- to 25-year-old consumers. Founded in 2012, the company exists to create innovative and effective performance wear that disrupts the market.
The company has a family-first focus, and believes each and every customer is a member of that family. Gymshark attributes much of their growth to that mentality. They’re here to support the people who buy into the brand.
They also host a 3-million-member online community to foster that sense of connection. As part of their community, Gymshark works closely with social media influencers who can directly reach consumers and educate them about the brand.
“We’re really looking forward to ringing the bell and opening the NYSE. It’s a business bucket list moment for sure! This, together with the mentorship sessions with some true global business icons and experts, is something we could never have dreamt of when we started the business 5 years ago.”
Steve Hewitt, CEO of Gymshark
Highest Percentage Growth: Skinnymixers
Nikalene Riddle knew there was room for innovation when she noticed a distinct lack of healthy Thermomix recipe options to choose from when she was working on losing weight after having a baby. Riddle founded Australia-based Skinnymixers to solve that problem.
Skinnymixers provides customers with cookbooks that not only include healthy recipes but also dive into discussions on good diet and lifestyle choices. They feature a range of recipes for those with dietary restrictions, and include healthy options that don’t sacrifice taste.
The brand has monetized with books, but started with a Facebook community that’s now grown to include over 145,000 members. Riddle focused on building rapport and relationships within the group before offering products for purchase to members, which helped her increase sales without losing engagement.
For Riddle, she knows the opportunity to receive coaching, mentorship, and education from some of the leading business personalities and brands in the world is something money can’t buy. Even after winning the Highest Percentage Growth category, she knows Skinnymixers has the potential for even more scale.
"I know that winning this incredible ‘money can’t buy’ prize will help us take Skinnymixers from a small business to global empire. I’m especially looking forward to the inspiration and guidance from some of the world’s best mentors, both on a personal and business level."
Nikalene Riddle, founder of SkinnyMixers
Best Marketing Strategy: BestSelf Co.
If you want to Build a BIGGER Business, your marketing strategy must be on point. BestSelf Co. could give other brands a masterclass in innovative, effective marketing, and their approach put them on the top of our list as winners of the Best Marketing Strategy category.
BestSelf Co. is a young company that’s experienced massive growth since their launch. Founded by Cathryn Lavery and Allen Brouwer, the brand’s mission is to change the world by giving people tools to reach their full potential.
Those tools are primarily journals and productivity planners. As to that innovative marketing strategy? They give those products away for free.
It’s a counterintuitive approach that’s worked extraordinarily well, allowing BestSelf Co. to grow exponentially and rack up awards and accolades along the way (including winning Shopify’s 2016 Build a Business competition).
“I know Shopify will have us in awe. I'm looking forward to the advice from the mentors and learning from the other Shopify winners.
“Meeting and learning from the others winners, who share the same challenges, struggles, and successes we are is invaluable. Making friends and sharing ways to help each other grow as business owners is why we're here."
Allen Brouwer, Founder of Best Self Co.
As for Lavery, she said she’s still in disbelief over winning Best Marketing Strategy in the competition.
“We can’t wait to explore Fiji and get mentorship from one of our business heroes, Tony Robbins.”
Cathryn Lavery, Founder of Best Self Co.
Best Scale Strategy: Fanjoy
Influencer marketing is on the rise, and more and more consumers want to purchase what their heroes, role models, and mentors endorse. Fanjoy aims to make it easy for customers to feel connected with big-time influencers and personalities -- and for those influencers to create custom merchandise experiences for fans.
Fanjoy founder Chris Vaccarino believes in the power of content to scale and grow his business, and he’s proven it through the strategy the company deploys.
Recognizing that today’s consumers don’t enjoy being sold to, Vaccarino focused on building social media followings and making Fanjoy feel like an extension of customers’ existing lifestyles. The content they create (and help influencers create to sell merchandise) leaves customers feeling extremely engaged, connected, and valued.
As for what’s next?
“We’re so stoked for this opportunity to interact and learn from the Shopify team and amazing mentors during this experience. Being able to take the knowledge that is shared with us during the trip and apply it to our personal lives and business is a game-changer.”
Chris Vaccarino, Founder and CEO of Fanjoy
Best Raving Fan Culture: Sand Cloud
Sand Cloud is a San Diego-based company with a powerful purpose: save marine life. They donate 10% of net profits from the sale of their products, handwoven Turkish beach towels, to organizations that help protect and preserve beaches, oceans, and marine life.
Their dedication to that mission has earned the company an adoring fan base. Sand Cloud founders Bruno Aschidamini, Steven Ford, and Brandon Leibel recognize that by donating a percentage of profits to causes their customers care about, they don’t just sell to consumers. They work with loyal supporters.
Those supporters not only buy products, but become ambassadors who help increase product sales. The strength and commitment of the Sand Cloud consumer community and ambassador program helped the brand earn the winning spot in the Build a BIGGER Business’ Best Raving Fan Culture category.
"This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am so excited to meet so many influential people that I can learn from.”
Brandon Leibel, Co-founder of Sand Cloud
Tony Robbins Choice: LIVELY
Michelle Cordeiro Grant had a problem with lingerie. To her, there was no brand that gave women something that made them feel sexy in today’s terms: smart, healthy, outgoing and confident. Not to mention, most lingerie was made by men and, well, pretty much for men.
Grant didn’t want women to have to choose between super stylish (and super sexy) and what was actually wearable for 14 hours a day. So she set out to innovate and create something entirely new, which wasn’t just a product but an entire movement.
“Leisurée” gives women both products and a community that empowers women to do what they love with the people they love. Grant hopes that the LIVELY brand is a reminder for her female customers to live passionately, purposefully and confidently.
Grant is also excited about the possibilities, especially after winning Shopify’s Build a BIGGER Business competition as Tony Robbin’s top choice. “To be just 18 months in as a business, and now be included on this journey goes beyond anything we ever imagined this soon,” she says.
“This inspirational crew is setting out to instill positivity, foster growth, and drive people to be their best. That is everything LIVELY stands for and strives for as a team!”
Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Founder and CEO of LIVELY
Shopify’s Pick: Kindred Bravely
All mothers know that pregnancy, while one of the most rewarding human experiences, is also one of the most challenging and difficult. Deeanne Akerson knew this too, but she believed that finding comfortable, stylish maternity clothing should not be part of what made pregnancy so hard.
She founded Kindred Bravely in 2015 to provide expectant and new mothers with a collection of luxury maternity and nursing wear that enables moms to transition from the bump to the breast and beyond.
But Akerson doesn’t see the company as a fashion brand, and is willing to commit to growth and scale strategies that may not make monetary sense—like performing random acts of kindness for customers and surprising consumers with unexpected moments of generosity.
As Shopify’s pick in the Build a BIGGER Business competition, that alternative strategy for expanding the company might just pay off after all. “I know I am going to look back at [winning the competition] as a pivotal time in the growth of Kindred Bravely,” says Akerson.
“I know this experience is going to be incredible, both personally and professionally. I'm most looking forward to sitting down one-on-one with each of the mentors and asking them questions. The wisdom, insight and strategy that winning this competition will provide is quite simply priceless!”
Deeanne Akerson, CEO and Co-Founder of Kindred Bravely
The Disruptor: Knixwear
Joanna Griffiths is on a mission to help women embrace the blood, sweat, and tears that come with a full, well-lived life. And she wants women to feel comfortable and confident while doing it.
That’s why she brought Knixwear, an active intimates brand, to the market. Griffiths launched her first product, a line of leakproof performance underwear, in 2013. And in 2015, Kinxwear’s 8-in-1 bra launch became the most-funded fashion project ever on Kickstarter.
The company has continued to grow and produce various lines of functional, fashionable intimates that help women feel strong and comfortable in their own skin at every stage of life.
Knixwear opts to use customers in their photoshoots instead of models, and has earned a cult following through constant innovation and continued commitment to a culture of listening. It’s one of the many reasons they won The Disruptor category in the competition.
As a competition winner, Griffiths is most looking forward to receiving mentorship from some of the world’s top entrepreneurs.
“We've had a terrific growth year but we have even bigger ambitions for the future. It’s such a tremendous opportunity to get one-on-one access with the all-star mentors and I cannot wait to pick their brains and learn from their experiences on how we can take Knixwear to the next level!"
Joanna Griffiths, Founder and CEO of Knixwear
What’s Next for the Build a BIGGER Business Winners
All our Build a BIGGER Business Winners are at the New York Stock Exchange today, where they will ring the opening bell on Wall Street and display their business name for the world to see.
They’ll also receive an incredible, exclusive experience in Fiji at the Namale Resort & Spa. Lead by Tony Robbins, the winners will receive coaching, mentorship and guidance to ensure their growth only continues an upward trajectory.
In addition to working one-on-one with Tony Robbins, the Build a BIGGER Business winners will get access to some of the world’s top entrepreneurs, including Tim Ferriss, Marie Forleo, and Debbie Sterling.
They’ll also work with leading brand-building agency Sid Lee to help with both strategic and creative planning for their fast-growing companies.
Shopify was thrilled to see such a strong, enthusiastic response to and a huge amount of participants in this year’s Build a BIGGER Business competition. We want to thank each and every one of the companies who rose to the challenge and took massive action to grow and scale their businesses in a significant way.
We look forward to seeing what our winners continue to build with the strong momentum (and mentorship!) behind them. And we hope to see your business as a participant in the next round of competition.
In the meantime, keep pushing forward and growing your BIGGER business!
Bonus: Build A BIGGER Business By The Numbers