MARKET RESEARCH FOR $5
Entrepreneur|Startups Fall - Winter 2021
Can’t raise funds? That might be for the best. This entrepreneur scraped his way to unicorn status…by meeting his consumers at a coffee shop.
LIZ BRODY

Stuart Landesberg started his career at Lehman Brothers and TPG Growth, but he felt a pull toward the sustainable-living industry. He’d grown up composting in his family’s backyard and had a vision of selling eco-friendly products online. “I was filled with the hubris of a 26-year old guy who works in finance,” he says.

So in 2012, he did what he thought he should: He looked for two cofounders, scrambled for meetings with investors, and showed off his grand plan for a company called ePantry. It would sell multiple existing brands. Nobody was interested. “It hurts me to even think about it,” he says, laughing.

Those rejections turned out to be a great fortune, however— because they forced him to be scrappy and inventive and understand his customer in perfect detail. His business transformed as a result. But of course, he didn’t know that at the time. He was just trying to survive.

After the start, after those investor rejections, Landesberg didn’t have much. His team didn’t have the money to develop a functional e-commerce site, so all they had was a PowerPoint presentation explaining their plan.

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