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Shari Wynne ResslerShari Wynne Ressler is an accomplished entrepreneur & attorney dedicated to helping people and their companies achieve success. Over the last 20+ years, she has developed a family of companies including RWR Legal, a law firm that serves innovators and emerging companies. In early 2020, RWR Legal partnered with Michael Best, a large national legal and consulting enterprise with over 170 years of experience.

Shari also founded SKU, the first and leading Consumer Product Goods (CPG) Accelerator operating in Austin, NYC, Dallas, and Minneapolis. She is currently focused on Venture Best, a nationwide ecosystem to connect innovators, high-growth companies, and investors to what they need for success.

 


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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Shari Wynne Ressler talks about starting her first business at 16 years old
  • What Shari does at Venture Best and the overall goals of the firm’s ecosystem
  • How the Venture Best ecosystem works and what makes it so effective for growing companies
  • Shari discusses working with entrepreneurs who don’t know the ins and outs of their business costs
  • Shari’s process for building a mutually beneficial ecosystem
  • How Shari engages with new clients who have to pause or make changes before moving forward with the program
  • The criteria businesses should use to evaluate whether or not they qualify for Venture Best or SKU
  • How to get in touch with Venture Best and Shari Wynne Ressler

In this episode…

Entrepreneurship is both an art and a science. In order to master it, business owners must seek out feedback from customers, suppliers, and investors, as well as guidance from their fellow entrepreneurs.

Because of this, finding the right partners and building an effective network is a crucial part of founding your business. That’s why Shari Wynne Ressler and her team at Venture Best have been working on creating an innovative ecosystem that helps entrepreneurs on their journey to high growth and success.

In this episode of the Buy Box Experts podcast, host Eric Stopper is joined by Shari Wynne Ressler, an accomplished entrepreneur and attorney, to talk about her company’s ecosystem for entrepreneurship. She explains the driving goals behind Venture Best, her criteria for evaluating companies to work with, and how she helps entrepreneurs grow their business to new heights. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:09

Welcome to the Buy Box Experts Podcast where we bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e-commerce world.

Eric Stopper 0:18

Hey and welcome to the Buy Box Experts Podcast. This is Eric Stopper. Today’s episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. We are into q4 and it has been a rocky inventory crisis for most people. Please come and reach out to us we can help you with your forecasting can help you with your business. Go to buyboxexperts.com, click on the free analysis button, and you’ll be connected with me or a member of my team. Today, I am so happy to be joined by Shari Wynne Ressler. She’s an accomplished entrepreneur and attorney dedicated to helping people in their companies achieve success. Over the last 20 plus years, Shari has developed a family of companies, including our wr legal, a firm that was focused on innovators and emerging companies, which in early 2020 partnered with Michael best a large national legal and consulting enterprise. With over 170 years of experience. She also founded skew the first leading consumer product goods accelerator currently operating in Austin, New York City, Dallas in Minneapolis. She currently is focused on venture best a nationwide ecosystem to connect innovators, high growth companies, investors to what they need for success. She told me that her purpose in life is to love people in a powerful way. And I just love that Shari, welcome to the show.

Shari Wynne Ressler 1:43

Eric, thank you so much. Thank you so much for inviting me. And I’m excited to be here today to speak with you.

Eric Stopper 1:51

So I kind of want to go into the past first. Um, I want to know Firstly, about your your business that you started when you were 16 years old. What was that? And why did you start it and where were you when that happened? Were you in Texas?

Shari Wynne Ressler 2:05

No, I actually was in California. I’m a California girl. And I started my first business at 16. I was I had started working when I was about 14 and a half. So I was pretty, very much focused on different kinds of entrepreneurial x enterprises. But at 16, I started a company called impressions at a glance. And it focused on unique business cards and logos. And what was interesting about that company and kind of is true for me today is that I didn’t actually design the cards. I basically put together people who needed collateral with designers, which is a lot what I do today. So that was my first enterprise in that. And it was not very long lived. It was a great. It was an interesting and fun, fun exercise. I learned about getting retainers up front, because I had certain businesses that wouldn’t be there when I showed up with their guards. But, but I learned a lot and it was great. And I had also worked in a business. My mom was an entrepreneur and worked in business with her. And it was a rose selling business. So I did that. I mean, there were a lot of different things that we did as a kid. And then my first professional company was my law firm, RWR.

Eric Stopper 3:24

And that was RWR, tell tell me about RWR. What was that? Like? How old were you when you when you found in that

Shari Wynne Ressler 3:30

I was probably 30 when I founded the firm A while back. And I was working at a multinational company I ended up going to I was a high school dropout. But I ended up getting into Berkeley Law and I came through and and when I graduated I really went to law school because I thought I was going to run for office. And then I didn’t run for office, I thought being an entrepreneur was better, actually worked on campaigns and kind of decided that I was way too outspoken to be to be a politician. But I ended up first working in the Department of Labor. And then I ended up working a lot with people’s pension funds and money. I liked finance and I loved business and growing business. So I ended up starting in corporate law and then moved relocated from DC New York kind of practice. I left a 1300 lawyer firm to move to Austin and I pretty much had located Austin as a city that I thought was going to be a growth city and I came to participate in their entrepreneurial ecosystem growth. And I thought it would be a great place to kind of grow up myself and grow my business and bring sophisticated legal and access to resources for my clients.

Eric Stopper 4:47

Let’s fast forward to Venture Best. You have a lot of things going on right like I read through your, your, your LinkedIn, your CV, the notes that you the conversations that we’ve had, and you have just touched Many businesses in so many industries over the years, venture best. Sounds like this amazing opportunity that everybody should be a part of. Because you connect innovators, high growth companies and investors, right? If those three people are in a room, that’s not the beginning of a joke, that’s the beginning of a legacy. Right? That’s, that’s the perfect foundation for somebody to be able to grow their company. So tell me about VentureBbest. What do you spend your days doing right now with this company? And what’s the overall goal?

Shari Wynne Ressler 5:33

Well, I think what’s really exciting about the Venture Best ecosystem platform that we’re building with this firm is that, number one, I think that Michael Best company I had joined did a great job at creating a fantastic foundation law firm, which by the way, having a legal foundation is really great. For these entrepreneurs and emerging companies, you you need this, this foundation. But going beyond that Foundation, which is something that I really strove to do with our who are legal, but can do in a much bigger way now, which is all of the value added services, because, as we know, legal can only take you so far. But having a strategic adviser that actually understands kind of what you need, and all of the pieces of the puzzle that you need to be successful, is invaluable. Um, and having worked with thousands of companies, and now having joined with a group across the country to be able to create a national platform of rock star individuals have worked with these companies. And they’ve been involved in founding their own companies, they’ve been involved with building their clients, companies, they’ve been involved with investing in companies, there’s just a tremendous amount of expertise there. Michael, we also have a strategic arm so that there is, you know, all of the government relations and all of the things that come with that. But I, I really think that this particular opportunity for me, and the reason why I did it, frankly, was so that I could create an ecosystem that I have been able to create within SKU by the founding of my accelerator, on a national scale, in a multi disciplinary way. So this isn’t just CPG, it isn’t just technology isn’t just bio sciences. And it’s brought to bear and we have experts in each of those fields that can then bring this value added expertise. And that’s just very exciting. The other thing, the other aspect of this is that I get to focus a lot on the money. I tend to build ecosystems that take into account all of the stakeholders. In other words, I think people sometimes think of mentorship or acceleration, or whatever you’re doing to work with people is we’re just all here to grow this kid company, which, by the way, is a great endeavor. And yes, we really want our portfolio companies to be successful, and we want our clients to be successful. But what this is really enabling us to do is to have a fantastic place to work, where you are actually working in an amazing Rockstar entrepreneurial environment with these other people that are where you’re learning every day, right? Because we really want to be entrepreneurs, the people that are in this practice, have this on have the entrepreneurial spirit and experience to want to be lifetime learners share the values that our clients have, but with all with professional insight, to be able to effectively move the needle. And that is what has really made the difference for my clients. In a law firm, my clients and Venture Best and with SKU.

Eric Stopper 8:49

It sounds so you talk about the money. And a lot of a lot of the things that you just mentioned, are very cultural, right? building an entrepreneurial culture inside of these businesses. When you when you’re looking at a portfolio company or somebody that you’re maybe evaluating to bring into the fold of Venture Best or or SKU for that matter. Are there are there glaring things that you can point to the moment that you step into the door of a business that say, this is a problem that needs to change immediately, or an artifact that might be on the flip side really good? And you say hey, let’s like double down on whatever this thing is.

Shari Wynne Ressler 9:26

I think that there are people that are in the Venture Best practice had the kind of experience where you do get into a room with the founders, and with the group of people who are running that business and look at a few things and you know, right away Actually, there is a there is a I mean yes, it’s entrepreneurship is an art, right? There’s a luck. But then there is a science. If you’ve got somebody who can’t live and learn, you know who can’t take feedback Who isn’t prepared to be flexible? I mean, there isn’t, you’re not going to go anywhere, right? There’s an education process. And there’s a lot of kind of love you bring to the table in that education process, right? Because we are all learning. And I think being able to share as a person who’s a fellow entrepreneur, and in the world, also as a learner, where I am opening new businesses, and I am facing making the same mistakes, you are still find trying to find the right person, as I build these ecosystems for success. for clients, I mean, how much time and money do we waste doing things that are not in our expertise? Right? I mean, it’s just, this is just a universal issue, or how do you know what the right money is? I mean, there is a lot of money and networking happening with money. But trying to find the right partners and people to work with is, you know, it is it is a, it could be a job in and of itself. And when you’re trying to run a company at the same time, that can be quite difficult. Bringing, what we really want to do is we want to be able to set things up in a way. And that’s why I’m so focused on building this platform with Venture Best, where we can set things up in such a way where you’re dialing in on a lot of these things. Hopefully, you’re getting the right people, the people that you’re meeting and the referrals you’re being made to have actually been vetted. And you’re understanding like, we understand now, what people need, well, who is their ideal client? Who do they want to serve? And you know, that is the objective. And then there’s all the subjective, who are you really going to love working with? Who are you going to enjoy working with who’s going to actually help you be successful, I mean, that it is the dialing in of all of that, and being able to put it all together for people that can really move the needle for the company, and help their success.

Eric Stopper 12:01

So when a when a company is is coming into the fold of Venture Best, and they’re trying to set up this ecosystem, is there like how do they engage, like, do talk talk me through the nuts and bolts of how it works? Do they hire Venture Best on a on a retainer basis, and then you guys come in, and you’re working with their whole team, on a day to day weekly, monthly basis? like looking at reports and financials and all this kind of stuff? What’s like the meat of the business? How do you guys operate with your clients.

Shari Wynne Ressler 12:31

So I’m going to start by saying that this is something that I’ve joined the firm to help develop as well. So and I hope that this will continue to evolve as we’re doing what we’re doing. But I can tell you today, what we do that is very effective. you’re hiring Michael Best, because Michael Best is our law firm, and you come through the firm, which affords you all of the access to our legal resources. And that is the way you currently engage with us. We are entertaining other ways to engage with us. But today, it’s that way. Okay, I am a partner for strategic development. What that means is that I am a value add partner that you can also hire for concert growth consulting, and other kinds of consulting. But often what happens is that our attorneys in the firm who have clients that are interested in the ecosystems that I have to offer, will set up meetings with me. And we will work together and partner together along with other experts in the firm, to design what we think this client needs for success. And the fantastic thing is that it’s really kind of this is a growth and extension of what lawyers used to think of our think of as being a company’s General Counsel, you know, you have all the law, but you also deeply understand their business, what it is they’re trying to accomplish. And if done well, you’re also a business consultant. Right? So what Venture Best is, is, is a growth consulting arm, that then sets you up with the legal because the infrastructure is important. It’s just going to be important. And also our financial networks are important that have been developed through this, you know, hundred and 71 years and a lot of financial networks. That’s very important. But I would say what, where the magic is, is the way you interact with us the kind of relationship you have with us. The fact that you can call us about legal as well as business matters. And we can either answer that question or get you to the right person to answer that question. And we’re looking at the business holistically as to what it is you’re trying to accomplish. So that’s the way you would engage with us. And then to the extent that there are projects that get done, those get scoped out. So there might be a project in particular, here’s how we’re setting you up and getting you ready for financing or for funding. But Meaning SKU, we’re winding back to what is the money for I mean, one of the problems we have, when we’re entrepreneurs, and we think we need to raise money, which everybody thinks they need a million dollars, I need a million dollars. That’s, that’s the good round number. I mean, although now, it’s gotten to be a lot more, but you know, but you know, a million dollars, but often, what is the money for? Should you be raising money right now? What kind of money? Um, and I think that’s, that’s all very important to be able to set up so that you can be successful, right? And then the question is going to be given the answers to those questions that is going to determine then, what kind of money you need. Are you looking for, you know, often it’s beyond friends and family, but seed? Is it a are you? What kind of relationships do you need. And I think starting those relationships early, because often, the best way to get money is to get relationships, my focus is on the relationship. And if you have those relationships, money will follow.

Eric Stopper 16:02

So do you ever find a scenario where the founders or the people who are operating a business just simply don’t know how much things cost inside of their business?

Shari Wynne Ressler 16:17

All the time, I mean, I think that’s just, that’s just what it is. I mean, you’re off, let’s put it this way. We work with a lot of serial entrepreneurs. Those are people that like me, you’ve gone out, you start a business, you figure out how expensive everything is, you’ve hired all the wrong people, you’ve made all the mistakes, you know, it gets a lot easier, right? But then we work with a lot of people who have no idea. And I think one of the things that’s really helpful, and this is one of the reasons why entrepreneurs need to hear it from more than one person is that and share the experience of the fact that either you a you don’t know what you don’t know, B, you think you know, everything, we have that which, by the way, entrepreneurs to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be really confident, some of that confidence is well founded, some of it is because you have no idea what you should not be confident.

Eric Stopper 17:14

Right, you know, this is just, you know, welcome to humanity.

Shari Wynne Ressler 17:19

You know, and I think what it is, is being able to have people around you that you can trust, to be able to share with you in such a way and share experiences and share knowledge in such a way where we’re really helping to educate. And that takes a very service minded, you know, I mean, it’s a it’s a service attitude, and it’s a passion for their business, and it’s a passion for their success. And you can’t really manufacture that. And I think that really that’s it. And I think frankly, that is one of the things that people feel is missing from the practice of law, right? It’s a reason why the practice of law, people think, well, it can be commoditized, it can be this, but the reason why I truly believe that lawyers should be the ones that are trusted advisors is it’s actually grounded in something that is legally educated and informed. And I always felt that, that the lawyers, you know, we have all these consultants that actually didn’t have the professional experience, that we’re advising people. And by the way, I think there’s amazing people out there, and there’s, you know, I mean, I’m not casting aspersions on anyone, there’s amazing people doing amazing work in lots of ways. But there is a room and opportunity for a national entrepreneurial practice. And I’m very excited about this. And that is what we are going to accomplish we are accomplishing to some level. But I’d like to see us accomplish even on a greater level to where it is nationally recognized for Venture Best.

Eric Stopper 18:52

I think that this is all this is all incredible. Like when when I evaluate businesses, because this is I mean, I’m on a small scale I’m talking with with consumer companies, product companies. And you can you can always tell there’s like something is wrong with the way that they’re making decisions. When you are getting them into these ecosystems and giving them the strategic counsel, Is there ever a like a die like it’s a tried and trued process of helping the main stakeholders of the business? Like really figuring out what is important? Is there like a session that you take them into the mountains and just like help them really get in with their roots and figure out like what’s important to them? Is there a process that you take them through like that? Is there like a cultural paradigm model that you take these companies through and try to orient them at the right direction? Like what are some of the first things that you do when you’re working with these business that that have become so systematic that can just like fix some of the glaring issues that are in a business.

Shari Wynne Ressler 20:08

That’s such a good question. Um, I think that all those things that you mentioned, are fantastic. And they get, you know, I think that depending upon the amount of time you have with somebody, yeah, I mean, you need, in a sense to be inputting a tremendous amount of information quickly to people. And how do you do that. And I will say that, having I mean, I am an ecosystem entrepreneur, that’s what I do. So I would say that I’m what SKU and I’ll use SKU as an example, just, I’ll use SKU as an example. And then I can talk about how that works in something that’s not recognized as a pure accelerator, the reason why SKU was able to have the impact that it had in really developing and bringing together CPG in Austin, which we are now a recognized CPG community, you know, a hub for CPG. And when we started, we had some disparate, CPG companies. One of my co founders, Clayton Christopher, who was Cavu, and now is just everything he touches turns to gold, he, D, Betty, and everything that he had done, he has done and is still doing. When we came together to do this, it was because we really wanted to build an ecosystem that would help these companies and bring together Austin. And SKU was actually a really good experiment on how best to do this. And when we did it, niche acceleration, in other words, non tech, tech, or app, accelerators simply didn’t exist. Um, and tech stars had kind of started, like, it was Y Combinator, and everything was very new. But what we really wanted to do so there was a lot of things we want to do. We wanted to build a community, and we wanted to help people be successful, and then have an education program and really do exactly what you’re talking about. How do you take somebody who had is passionate about their business, because one of the things about CPG that I love, is that it often has a story. It’s naturally diverse. I love the natural diversity, like there’s women companies and couple companies, and you know, all of the different things that come in, and nationalities right, the drive the type of CPG. And just, I loved the mix of that. Right. So how do we do that? Well, and I think one of the things that we did is number one, when we’ve surrounded people, we when we when we bring people into that process, there is a very specific structure, about how we have people engage with each other. We were the first niche Excel, one of the first of these accelerators, and we told our mentors, we want you to pay because we’re doing this, please pay $10,000 I think it was five a first year but then now it’s like 10, or 15, please pay this money. So you can work really hard. And somebody I remember when I was talking to people about it, and he was like, Why in the world would they people do this. And I said, because we’re really committed to what we’re doing. It’s really a want to see what’s going to happen. And by the way, you’ll get a sliver of the company, a really small sliver, but we have no idea if it’s ever going to work. But we this is not don’t think of this we’re not a fund, how to finance play, or a community builder ecosystem development. This is it. What ended up happening is that we ended up having the most amazing stakeholders, and we really looked at what it is they wanted to accomplish. So what we looked at is we looked at investors who wanted to know each other rock stars who wanted to know each other. And I think focus by focusing on not just what you’re doing for the entrepreneur, but what you’re doing for everyone in that ecosystem, to where everybody’s excited to engage. What you get is very committed people. So what happened was is during the, during our track, you would have all these mentors that are available to you, but your mentor team, we hadn’t set it up that anybody was going to stay as people’s board of advisors or those mentor teams were going to stay together, but they ended up staying together. Because of the way it was designed. It was designed to have every person in that ecosystem get something out of the involvement. Whether it was just that you got to build a community or when we ended up in three and a half years having epic bar sell for 100 million dollars to General Mills, right and have CSA family foods. You know this amazing you know, healthy Mexican food tortilla gluten free company, which is now going to just this incredible now cultural phenomenon, this company. I’m with They go out and they raise, and they are moving and shaking in such a way. I mean, it’s very exciting, right, that was very energizing. And that was kind of the reason why we decided to really scale it. But, um, I think there’s a process that has to happen. So how does and that process takes the course over, you know, we have some programs that are nine weeks, somewhat over 14 weeks, but it’s very dialed in, as to mentors that you’re going to talk to subject matter experts, you’re going to talk to investors, you’re going to talk to exactly what you need to be doing with your product, your brand, your scale, I mean, it is full on an MBA, MBA on your business, yeah, along with experts. So having that and then teaching you how to do that as you go forward. So that when you are actually raising capital, you are raising capital, knowing what you’re getting, but let me tell you what else is happening. These companies that go through our accelerator, and they succeed, they have all all of these mentors that can testify to the fact that this is a great company. And when people who are not in CPG, that wanted to start investing, because you know, back when I started this in 2011, investing in consumer product goods, was not a thing wasn’t cool. It was not cool. It was not sexy, which we always used to joke that our events were the sexiest events, because we had all the women, we had all this diversity, we had a party, we were just we weren’t very uptight, you know. So it’s really funny people come to our events and think, man, this is really cool. And you know, plus, we had all the branders, of course, everybody was running around with all the sales people. And, and they and they got to eat all the food, which of course, anytime you you know, feed anybody or give them alcohol, they love you. It just turned out to be really fun. So our events would have five or 600 people in and we would, we would, you know, today, we’re doing a lot on zoom and combination. But you know what I’m, but I think what’s very exciting about that is that’s how that ended up getting wired in for SKU, right? This, it’s very intentional, and, and I think mentors come to me all the time. And they say I am doing but I had one mentor, say I do business with a school mentor, at least once a week. Well, I mean, like a very engaged network. And now we have a CPG hub here. That is, you know, we have a naturally boulder came here with naturally Austin, which were we supported, and a lot of my board members supported and I was on the founding circle of so now we’ve got that bigger. And just, you know, of course, it has its own momentum. And there’s all these amazing people. But it’s very exciting. So what I would say, of how that could look. So for the person coming for the company coming through the program, they are infused with a lot. And then things going forward when somebody comes into the practice, which is Venture Best, and this is something that we’re always improving upon. The idea is that first, your first step is a meeting with a general counsel, sort of like me, and, or like some of our other rock stars that are out there that are really, you know, growth experts that have worked with all these companies, and are used to doing this. And in that meeting, we are listening a lot and diagnosing, because people will come in and they’ll say, here’s all the things that I first of all, you’re listening to what it is they actually want to accomplish. What are you looking to do with your business? What would you like to accomplish? And hearing that is very important, and then evaluating kind of what they’re thinking about that. And then there will be a section of that meeting, which is legal infrastructure to support it. Because that’s very important, because you need to have your ducks in a row, or you won’t be able to raise money, and you’re going to be disorganized. And that’s just, that’s got to happen. Right? That’s the basis. But then there is the going beyond, which is all of the general counsel. And that’s a lot of listening. Who’s on your team? Who do you have on your team? Who do you not have on your team? Yeah. But you know, because that person may not necessarily be somebody you hire might be an advisor, you know, what kind of advisors do you have? What kind of expertise Do you need and that and you just start building that from day one for the clients. And then things happen over time because you don’t want to overwhelm people like when people come to these meetings. I mean, you have a kind of a map in your head about kind of what could happen for this business, or at least a start. And then there’s just a process of getting to know them. You get to know a person’s company a lot doing their legal because when you set up a company, you’re going to hear a lot about the different members of the company that are going to be participating. Because they’ve got to talk to you about what they’re going to be doing and how they’re going to be doing it. You also learn a lot about the dynamic How they are working together. I work with, there’s a lot of family companies. And there’s special dynamics when you’ve got a family company. And I having worked with, you know, both men I was married to, I can tell you there was a family dynamic running through my law firm, although we took a lot of time to make sure that it was professionalized, and we’re very conscious of that. But I mean, I think understanding dynamics is very important, and then being able to pay for everything, because then of course, then we say, you know, here are potential partners for you. And then seeing issues, there’s just a lot of issues spotting going on. But in the end, it’s prepared kind of presenting options to people educated options, and then trusting the entrepreneur to make the decisions.

Eric Stopper 30:47

I wonder on this, on this front that I’ve been obsessed with this idea of the and on cord recently, this Toyota, I think, were the first ones to coin it were in their manufacturing line, if something was broken, right, if, if the hammer was behind the person, instead of hanging on a hook right in front of them, they could literally pull a cord and it would stop the whole manufacturing line. So they could take the hammer and put it on the on the hook in front of them so that they wouldn’t have any inefficiencies moving forward. Does someone ever engage with SKU or Venture Best and the first thing that that their their first meeting, they just realize, like, your company needs to just like pause everything right now and fix this, this and this, and then you can turn it on, and then you can grow? Do you guys ever encountered that type of issue where you just got to stop everything and and fix stuff and then move forward? from there?

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