Startup Success: An Interview with Belly CEO Logan LaHive
Logan LaHive, a.k.a. “the Chief Big Belly,” is the CEO of Belly, a rewards and customer loyalty program used by millions countrywide.
Before founding Belly, Logan was the Director of New Business at Redbox. Since then, he has spent the past 7 years in startups, and he’s developed a passion for helping small businesses achieve their goals.
As a content partner with Startup Grind Chicago, our copywriters love to see new businesses take flight. And meet movers and shakers like Logan. Before the September event, Logan was kind enough to speak with our copywriting team and share his advice on how to really make it in small business.
We think you’ll get a similar experience with the following Q&A. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out Startup Grind Chicago.
Q: Was Belly your first small business?
A: No, actually my first venture happened when I was a child. My friend’s dad had a stack of vintage Playboy Magazines, and I saw an opportunity for business partnership. I made a deal with my friend to tear out the centerfolds so we could sell them as individual items.
But, my first serious venture into entrepreneurship began in college. Throughout the years at my university, I volunteered with many startup companies. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, even though I knew nothing about what it meant to start a company.
I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes. When I started out, I quickly realized that any idea you have is not as important as taking action.
Q: Tell our readers about what venture capital means for startups.
A: In my first pitch to a venture capital firm, the person didn’t get the idea for Belly at all. I told him that if he were a retailer, he’d understand how Belly created customer loyalty like nothing else.
Luckily, this person took me to his friend who did work in retail, so I got to pitch to him. Needless to say, the meeting went a lot more smoothly with the right audience.
As far as venture capital is concerned, a pivotal moment for me happened when I attended a tech startup event. While there, I was introduced to many venture capitalists who brought me on to develop my idea for Belly.
Honestly, they were close to firing me because I was never in the office. Instead, I constantly went out to pitch and sell my idea. When things didn’t go as planned, I adjusted my presentation.
I learned something important through trial and error.
It’s not your idea that matters to investors; it’s how you execute that idea.
Q: What’s one specific thing that sets Belly apart.
A: Customers get rewards, and businesses get loyal customers. But that in itself is not unique. Here’s something: one Belly reward states that if a customer buys 50 comic books from a local shop, they get to punch the owner in the stomach.
Q: In your mind, what is the role of a CEO?
A: You can’t run your business out of fear. That’s the first thing.
After that, the role of a CEO evolves at every stage. First it’s sales. Then it’s seeking funding. Then it’s hiring a team to support you. But really, when you’re a CEO, you have to have maniacal focus, because you’ll never do anything more difficult.
Really care about your startup. Be passionate about it. You’re going to make a lot of sacrifices to get where you want to go. At Belly, we have a culture of hard work.
Q: 95% of startups fail. With that in mind, do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
A: Small businesses don’t fail because the idea is bad. Startups shut down because they run out of money, or they give up, or their founding team falls apart.
No successful entrepreneur will tell you that it’s easy. That’s why it’s so important to be passionate and care about what you’re doing. Also, be careful about the advice you receive, because no one can tell you what to do.
Success happens when you get up and do something. Keep pitching and selling, and find customers, team members, and investors who believe in your business.
In July of 2011, the iconic Belly iPad launched at a small comic bookstore in Chicago. For the very first time, a locally owned business could enhance its customer relationships by tracking in-store experiences and bringing them to the online world. Since then, Belly has grown to over 6 thousand locations across the country, is in the hands of millions of members, and has accumulated over 15 million visits. The Belly platform includes best-in-class iPhone and Android mobile apps, Belly Bites for better customer acquisition, tools to facilitate online customer reviews and streamlined Facebook and Twitter integrations. For more info visit: https://www.bellycard.com