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Miki Agrawal Talks Founding WILD, Giving Pitches, and More on The Business of HYPE Podcast

Feb 2, 2022

TechBullion As a well-regarded and experienced entrepreneur, Miki Agrawal is known for innovating seemingly antiquated industries. As the founder of elevated companies like WILD, Thinx, and TUSHY, Miki Agrawal regularly seeks to resolve human issues, incite conversation around seemingly “taboo” subjects, and leverage her brands to better our general experiences in the world. Recently, Miki Agrawal sat down with Jeffstaple from Hypebeast as a guest on the Business of HYPE podcast . Below, read what the disrupt-her had to say about funding her first company, WILD, and key entrepreneurial lessons from this foray into business: Miki Agrawal On Launching WILD Jeffstaple: How old were you when you started WILD? Miki Agrawal: 24, I had the idea, 25, raised the money, built it, and then opened it at 26. Jeffstaple: And you’re not a chef, right? Miki Agrawal: No. I literally never cooked in the kitchen before that day in my life. Jeffstaple: That’s awesome that it didn’t stop you. Most people would be like, “Oh, I wish I could do that, but I don’t cook, so…” You’re just like, “I’m going to figure this out.” Miki Agrawal: Well, I was just a naive fool. I was just like, “How hard could this be?” It was more like, “Yeah, it’s just pizza. I can figure this out.” I mean, pizza is the hardest dough to create. It’s actually a science. I think every entrepreneur needs to be really naive when they start anything. Because if they know… If they’re like, “Oh, these are the 25,000 steps I need to take to start a business,” they might scare themselves from doing it. Right? Versus, “Oh, how hard could it be to start a clothing brand or to start a shoe company or to start any business?” Right? It can’t be that hard. I think for every one of my businesses, it started that way. Even after I started the hardest business in the world, the restaurant business, the next business I was like, “Oh my God, this must be much easier.” The underwear business can’t be, you know, technical underwear, can’t be… Oh, my God. Bidet can’t be that hard. Each one has a set of major challenges and hurdles and issues. Jeffstaple: So, with the first one, WILD, you said you brought in funding ? Miki Agrawal: Yeah, we raised $250,000. Jeffstaple: To open the first one in Brooklyn? Miki Agrawal: Yes. To open the first one in Manhattan. Upper East Side was the first one. Jeffstaple: Okay. How do you pitch that? Like, how do you put that together? Miki Agrawal On Pitching To Investors Miki Agrawal : This is a funny and kind of sad and tragic story because… So, at first I would go and try to do this one-on-one business meeting. Anyone who I thought had any money in their pockets, like former investment bank connections that I had, or anyone that was rich from college, anyone, I was like, “Hey, can we set up a meeting? I have an idea.” I would put on my investment banking suit from like my days of banking, and I would go and have these awkward meetings with people. Because I was so out of myself and in these suits and trying to be business-y when I wasn’t a business person at all, I would be so not confident in myself and that just showed in those meetings. I raised a big fat donut for like, a whole year. It was nothing. I finally stopped and I was like, “Okay. What am I doing wrong? Why am I not raising money? What is it?” Then, I realized I wasn’t like my sort of sparkly true self that, you know, when you’re a light, when you’re super excited, when you’re good at something, people are attracted to you, right? It’s magnetic. But when you’re tentative and cautious and uncomfortable and not in your skin properly, people are like, “Uh, I feel awkward just being around you.” You know? Jeffstaple: Yeah, I don’t want to give money and I want to leave. Miki Agrawal: I’m going to get out of here. Like, check please. Jeffstaple: All right. First, let me ask you this, how did you first figure out how much you needed? Miki Agrawal: I calculated what the startup cost would be. I got turned down from every landlord even to get a space. So, the only space I got, I was losing to Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts on spaces. So, the only space I got was like a 700 square foot nail salon, a pink nail salon that I had to convert into a restaurant. Jeffstaple: It had no restaurant equipment in there. Miki Agrawal: Zero. Didn’t even have a stacked hood that went to the roof, a venting system. So, I had to even build a six story venting system that went to the roof. Of course, I had no idea what that was about. It was a whole thing, it was such a hilarious set of misadventures after another. Jeffstaple: Did you learn it all yourself in terms of like there’s restaurant coding Food and Health regulations ? Miki Agrawal: Oh, I had to learn every single thing on the fly as they were popping in. You’re just like, “Oh my God. Wait, what? I have to get a Food Service License? I have to go take a class?” Okay, I’m going to… All right. I guess I’m going to go do that now. Oh, now I have to go and get this. I have to get a Sidewalk Vending permit if I want to have one table outside. Okay, maybe that’s not a good idea right now. You know, it’s going to cost $20,000. You know, forget it.” Jeffstaple: So, you figured out, you sort of listed everything you knew? Miki Agrawal: Yeah, I listed everything I needed. I’m like,  “$250,000 should cover me for build out cost and the first six months. “ Jeffstaple: Did you nail it? Was that the right number? Miki Agrawal: No, no, I definitely needed a little bit more. Actually, it was fine because I’m really frugal like that. I was really able to get favors. Jeffstaple: And you have to hire a chef. Miki Agrawal: I had to hire a chef and he was on my soccer team in New York . So, he helped me out in the beginning. I just kind of pulled it together. The build costs were just so much. I had to dig out a basement. There was no basement. I had to literally dig, shovel, like dig into this earth and dig out the basement. Jeffstaple: Did you ever consider just renting a restaurant space? Miki Agrawal: We tried. I tried. Jeffstaple: Was it one person that funded it or multiple people? Miki Agrawal: Oh my God. It was so many people. And it was like…  Jeffstaple: 250,000 people each with $1. Miki Agrawal On Raising Money Miki Agrawal: Literally, it was probably like 20 people. Yeah. The way I raised that money was hysterical. Like, I would try so hard. Okay. So, these one-on-one meetings were not working out. So, I was like, “Okay, I’ll just stop.” I was like, “Okay, where do I shine? Where am I most me?” I was like, “Oh my God, soccer fields.” In college, I used to have guys come watch me play soccer so they can fall in love with me because they’re like, “Oh, she’s so good.” It was like I’d score the hot guy. So, I was like, okay, soccer. Where else am I shining? I’m like, oh, dinner parties. I hosted a really great dinner party. So I was like, all right, I’m going to start throwing these fundraising dinner parties. That changed everything. Jeffstaple: Can I ask how much equity in the company you had to give up to get the $250,000? Miki Agrawal: I gave up 20%, so it wasn’t that bad. Like, oh my God, I would have another dinner party where I would invite a bunch of investor potentials and then the chef wouldn’t show up. One time, and I was sitting there all dejected, being like, I can’t believe… And then one person would pull out a checkbook and write me a $20,000 check and like, “Don’t worry about it. Here’s $20,000. Send me the paperwork later.” I’m like, “What?” Another time, I would be working so hard and people who knew I’d been working really hard, one time at a rooftop just talking about the business being like, “I’m just trying to make this happen. It’s been my dream.” Then, this woman picks out her checkbook, writes me a $25,000 check and gives it to me. Send me the paperwork later. That’s literally how I raised money. It was not these business meetings. It was just the most unexpected ways. I was at my restaurant and there was this guy and this woman who came in, and I just started chatting with them up and like, they were on their first date. I was like, oh my God, I would send them out some stuff and try to make… And then he ended up investing $25,000, his partner ended up investing $20,000. So, I cobbled stuff together over time. Jeffstaple: It’s almost like you never actually gave a professional pitch and got money from not pitching. Did you get better at pitching like when you started the other businesses? Miki Agrawal: I did. I started learning what people were like, “Oh, interesting. Oh, the pizza category is a $32 billion category. Americans eat 100 acres of pizza every single day. Oh, wow. The healthy lifestyle category is growing exponentially 10X faster than the S&P 500. You start figuring out the market, market size, the opportunity. I just started to learn when peoples’ eyes perked up, or ears perked up and they’re like, “Oh, interesting”, leaning in, looking more. Jeffstaple: Looking at their phone, whatever. Miki Agrawal: Yeah. Then, they’re like, “Oh, interesting.” So, that’s kind of when I just started learning, but you just have to do it over and over. Jeffstaple: And fail. Miki Agrawal: The first 100 will be like the worst things ever. Then, the 101st, you’ll be like, “Oh, wow. I did learn stuff because it’s rolling off my tongue less uncomfortably.” Miki Agrawal’s Advice? Get Uncomfortable! Jeffstaple: So, what would you say is the best piece of advice you could offer to someone who’s trying to pitch their idea out there? Miki Agrawal: Practice it on every single person, get uncomfortable, go pitch it to family member, go pitch it to your best friends, even if they’re awkward and uncomfortable. It’s probably more awkward to do it in front of your friends because you’re the most shy and they judge you so hard, you know? So, actually doing it in front of those people are actually the best ways to lose your fears around pitching, just pitch it to everyone. You know, in the subway, when you meet someone, “Oh, what are you working on?” “Okay. So, I’ve got this project…” Then you see what they say, whether they’re like, “Oh, interesting,” or they’re like, “Cool.” You know, trial and error. Jeffstaple: It’s a lot of emotional reading, like reading them, right? Miki Agrawal: That’s it. And you’re seeing what sparks people to ask another question. It is that 10,000 hour rule . You know, you do you have to actually just say it over and over again. When I talk about disruptive innovation right now, I’ve given the talk enough times now. The first time I was a little clunky, second, third, fourth, fifth time’s getting better and better. Now, it’s like I can riff off of it. I can tell some jokes in between and know where my place was, and get back to where I was in my presentation. So, it’s the same thing. If you’re on your pitch and you’re in it, you’re in the zone, and then someone interrupts you with a question and then you lose your place, and you freak out, that means that you don’t know it well enough. Jeffstaple: Right. It’s not about memorization. Miki Agrawal: It’s not, at all. It’s knowing your talking points, knowing when you want to have a conversation with somebody, but still knowing when to get back to your talking points because you want to make sure that you hit your value propositions really well so that they can walk away, and repeat it back. So, a key thing that I think is critical, is that when you tell someone your business idea, ask them to repeat it back to you. If they can’t repeat it back to you in a really pithy, quick way, in the same way you told them, that means that you haven’t pitched it properly enough. You haven’t learned your pitch well enough. Just have them repeat it back. Okay. What’s my business idea? They’ll be like, “It’s a bidet that…” Okay, cool. Final Thoughts Jeffstaple: The pitch, everyone knows it’s important. What’s often forgotten is the fact that it will happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Communicating your idea doesn’t only come in a conference room while presenting a deck. Look at Miki Agrawal’s experience , it pops up in everyday conversations, and I can fully vouch for this as well. When I’m put on the spot to talk about my creation or an idea or business need, it’s almost never at a scheduled meeting in a boardroom. It’s always by random chance occurrence. So, make sure you are always ready. How you communicate will be a reflection of you and the strength of your idea. Think of the different circumstances of when you would want to talk about your idea and hone those different forms of explanation. An elevator pitch for those quick conversations, a dinner for opportunities that allow for long dedicated moments, and every occasion in between. It’s a learning process that you won’t perfect unless you go out and do it. Much like a stand up comic. Learn what words resonate with your audience and who you are talking to, learn what proof points make the biggest impact, and learn what stories paint the best picture. I love Miki Agrawal’s advice , if someone can’t repeat back what your idea is, then you need to go back to the drawing board. And either rethink how you’re communicating that idea or maybe the idea itself. Miki Agrawal’s pitch story for her WILD the restaurant is really wild. Also, she learned the best person to be is your true self. The people involved are not only investing in your idea, they’re investing in you, your vision, and your confidence in the idea. Plus, you’re basically about to marry these people. You have to make it through thick and thin together. And ending a partnership is just as hard as going through a divorce. So, it’s probably best to just keep it real from the start.

Miki Agrawal Investments

3 Investments

Miki Agrawal has made 3 investments. Their latest investment was in Athletic Greens as part of their Unattributed VC on January 1, 2022.

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Miki Agrawal Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

1/25/2022

Unattributed VC

Athletic Greens

$115M

Yes

15

11/13/2018

Seed VC

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$99M

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10

5/21/2013

Seed VC

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$99M

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10

Date

1/25/2022

11/13/2018

5/21/2013

Round

Unattributed VC

Seed VC

Seed VC

Company

Athletic Greens

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Amount

$115M

$99M

$99M

New?

Yes

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Co-Investors

Sources

15

10

10

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