How Alexis Ohanian Reminded Me To (Always) Sweat The Details

It’s 11:48pm and I’m finally home after a marathon of day. I’m catching up on Twitter while eating “dinner” — a plate of leftover sesame noodles, when I see something that makes me sick to my stomach. It’s a tweet about my company from the co-founder of Reddit and all-around internet kingmaker, Alexis Ohanian:

For context, I had just spent the evening with Ohanian — I was invited to hear him speak at a private event in Soho and we got to chat for a bit after. The chai for the event was provided by a company I co-own, Kolkata Chai Co, and despite Ohanian not being a “chai guy,” he had nothing but great things to say about our product. He even started off the entire panel discussion by commenting on how good our signature cold-brew chai was and kept it in his hand for the entirety of the evening. So why did this tweet have me sick?

As a company that prides itself on having a strong visual identity, cohesive brand and a high level of execution, Ohanian’s tweet (and supplementary photos) made us look like a bunch of amateurs. A handwritten sign taped to a CaterGater? I’m not even sure I would trust that enough to drink it myself. See, I could explain how our labels didn’t get printed in time or how we usually have a printed menu with all the information, but the reality is, we fumbled the ball with all the stadium lights on. As a founder, excuses are one thing you really can’t afford.

As a self-funded startup, we don’t have a big PR budget and so every customer interaction becomes an opportunity for increased awareness and curiosity. We pride ourselves on creating shareable, digital-friendly products that make it easy for people to share and discover. Here’s an example. Oh, and this one. So when one of the most well known people on the internet decided to (organically) share your product, this is the best we could do? It was a missed opportunity in a game where you never know how many more chances you will get.

After cursing myself out and calling my partners, I settled in. I realized that this failure was caused by a lack of attention to detail. In the madness of everything else we were dealing with, we overlooked one of our most important customer touch points. And deservedly, we learned our lesson. I spent the next two hours restrategizing our catering experience and ensuring that our branding is integrated and executed from start to finish. As founders, we’re taught to think about the “big picture” and make sure we’re guiding the ship at a high level, but ultimately it’s the details that make the difference. But getting the details right means sitting in the mud and going through everything with a fine-toothed comb. It means doing the less glamorous work and triple checking everything. It means leaving nothing to chance.

Instead of providing a way for people to easily tag, share and discover us, we allowed our brand to be portrayed as something underdeveloped and unintentional. That’s an L. Now, it’s on us to make sure that “L” stands for lesson and not a loss.

Thanks for the reminder (and the tweet), Alexis.

If you’re in NYC this weekend, feel free to stop by our two day pop-up cafe. We’ll get everything right this time.

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