Marcus Sorensen, the visionary founder of Blue Coolers, takes us on a compelling journey behind the company's success. Since its establishment in 2018, Blue Coolers has been disrupting the outdoor cooler industry by offering high-quality and affordable alternatives to premium brands. In this exclusive interview, Sorensen shares the challenges they faced, including the impact of COVID-19, and unveils the strategies that propelled Blue Coolers to become a prominent player in the market. From their initial side hustle to quitting their jobs and navigating through supply chain disruptions, Sorensen's insights offer valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Chris Choi: Hey Marcus, it's a pleasure to meet you.
Marcus Sorensen: Likewise, I'm glad to be here.
Chris Choi: Thank you for joining us for this interview. Before we delve into the details, I'm really interested in hearing the captivating story behind the birth of your company. Could you share with us the history, mission, and core values that drive Blue Coolers forward?
Marcus Sorensen: Sure. My business partner, Chris Studdert and I have been in business together since around 2015. In 2018, we noticed the growing popularity of heavy-duty coolers like Yeti, but they were expensive. Being outdoor enthusiasts ourselves, we thought of offering more affordable options. With our experience in importing from overseas, we decided to give it a try. Initially, it was a side hustle, but the response from consumers was positive. In 2019, we made the decision to quit our jobs and focus entirely on Blue Coolers. Around the same time, we were approached by Shopify to be featured on their show "I Quit," which aired on the Discovery Channel. This exposure gave us a boost in 2020. We strive to be creative and gain exposure in a competitive market.
Chris Choi: Since your launch in 2018, what challenges have you faced, especially considering the impact of COVID-19, and how did you overcome them?
Marcus Sorensen: Starting a business is always challenging. In 2019, we were hit with 25% tariffs, which we weren't prepared for. Then in 2020, like the rest of the world, we faced the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Interestingly, COVID-19 had both positive and negative effects on our business. While some consumers shifted from vacations to outdoor activities, supply chain problems and increased container prices posed significant challenges. We had to make the difficult decision to keep running at a loss to maintain momentum. Additionally, we were sued by Yeti during this time. Despite these challenges, we persevered, and now we feel we have a good runway ahead of us.
Chris Choi: Have the container prices gone down again?
Marcus Sorensen: Yes, container prices have fallen significantly. They are now back to pre-COVID levels, although not quite there yet. It is a range that we can manage.
Chris Choi: Who have been the most helpful people or entities since 2018 in terms of supporting and assisting your business?
Marcus Sorensen: Shopify has been incredibly helpful, particularly Harley Finkelstein and others involved with the show. They provided support and guidance. Additionally, the support of our families has been crucial. Both Chris and I have large families, and having their support is vital when undertaking ventures like this. We have also had some family investment in the business, which adds some pressure but has been helpful.
Chris Choi: What are your current distribution channels, and what has been your most successful marketing strategy to expose your brand and products?
Marcus Sorensen: We have a multi-channel approach, including traditional retail and wholesale, Amazon, and our D2C Shopify business. We initially built the business using Facebook advertising, and Facebook has been a great partner for us. However, the iOS 14 update in 2021 forced us to reassess our marketing strategies and find new approaches. We have used tools like Triple Whale to address attribution gaps caused by the Facebook changes. We are also focused on Amazon, and committing to FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant) instead of FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) has been a successful strategy for us. We have seen significant growth on Amazon this year. Building relationships with larger national retailers through our wholesale channel is an ongoing process.
Chris Choi: Have you implemented any strategies that led to significant sales growth?
Marcus Sorensen: Our commitment to FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant) on Amazon has been a significant factor in our sales growth. Many people believe that FBA is the only efficient way to sell bulky items on Amazon, but we couldn't make it profitable due to the nature of our products. In 2021, we decided to give FBM a try and invested in it. Since then, we have seen a 100% increase in sales compared to the previous year, and this year we are up by 120%. We have also found ways to incorporate FBA into our Amazon strategy, which has further improved our efficiency.
Another notable jump in sales was when we introduced our third generation of coolers. We made tweaks and improvements based on customer feedback, and we made the decision to design and own our own unique cooler, rather than using someone else's designs. This investment in our own intellectual property and molds has made our company more distinct and sustainable.
Chris Choi: What do you enjoy most about running your own business, and what keeps you motivated?
Marcus Sorensen: I have had a varied career path, and I realized that I am not suited for a traditional office job. I enjoy the risks and challenges that come with running my own business. It keeps me up at night, but it also excites me. I like solving problems for myself and betting on my own abilities. The freedom to make decisions that have a real impact on the direction of the company is what motivates me. I value the sense of ownership and the ability to carve my own path.
Chris Choi: Finally, what advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
Marcus Sorensen: My advice would be to think long and hard about starting a business. Have a plan in place, but be prepared to adapt and change that plan as needed. It's crucial to have a clear direction and strategy. Additionally, I would caution against identifying solely as an entrepreneur without having a tangible business or expertise in a specific industry. Successful businesses often emerge from individuals who have gained experience and knowledge by working in a particular field and identifying opportunities within it. Having a well-thought-out plan and understanding the industry you are entering are key factors for success.
Chris Choi: Thank you, Marcus, for your insightful answers.
Marcus Sorensen: You're welcome. I'm glad I could contribute. Thank you for the opportunity to share our story.
In conclusion, Marcus Sorensen's entrepreneurial journey with Blue Coolers serves as an inspiring testament to the power of determination, adaptability, and strategic decision-making. By embracing challenges, leveraging multi-channel distribution, and prioritizing innovation, Blue Coolers has carved a niche in the industry and continues to thrive.
To stay updated with the latest news, product releases, and exciting developments from Blue Coolers, be sure to follow them on social media. Connect with them on Instagram and Youtube to join a vibrant community of outdoor enthusiasts and receive exclusive content, tips, and special offers. Stay in the loop with Blue Coolers' journey as they continue to innovate and provide affordable, high-quality coolers for your outdoor adventures. Don't miss out on the opportunity to be part of the Blue Coolers experience - follow them today and embark on your next cooler adventure with confidence!