A lot has changed since the summer of 2017. Back then, Bungii was just a team of four: Ben, Harrison, Josh and Eric.
Bungii had enough money to last through mid-October and had some pretty lofty tasks to complete to ensure another round of funding. The main goal was proving that Bungii has a practical use in the retail world. If we found a retail partner, the funding came in. If we didn’t, our dream was over [insert dramatic music].
“No problem,” we thought, “it can’t be that hard to find a partner.”
Naively, we started with the biggest, most obvious prospects: Costco, Home Depot and Walmart. We quickly learned that our fledgling startup wasn’t going to get the time of day from corporate behemoths… strike one. Then, we set our eyes on regional chains… 0-2 in the count. Next up, local furniture stores… still no partnership.
If we couldn’t get local furniture stores to partner with us, who would? It was a humbling, defeating stretch. We weren’t sure of our next move.
Then, Josh proposed an idea: “On my way to work this morning, I drove past this second hand store. I popped in and saw that they had a bunch of furniture. They’ve gotta be the partner we’ve been looking for!”
Our team, with newly found wind in our sails, enthusiastically put a pitch together and stopped by the next day. We found the manager and anxiously pitched Bungii, shaking from some odd combination of nervousness and excitement. This was our moment!
We received a two word response: “Not interested.”
Doing our best to apply what we learned in school, we tried to handle the objection and reiterate Bungii’s value proposition.
“Listen guys, it’s a busy day and we already have delivery. The answer is no.”
We walked out of the second hand store crushed. The most frustrating part was that deep down we knew they needed Bungii but we just weren’t able to get the message across. Our mid-October deadline seemed to get a whole lot closer.
The next morning while driving past the store on the way to work, Josh intentionally tried to look away. But like a bad car accident, he couldn’t resist. That’s when he noticed a sign in the window. “Volunteers welcomed.” [Light bulb moment.]
Josh came into the office that morning with a bold new strategy: “Guys, we know they need Bungii but the problem is they just aren’t familiar with us. To them, we’re some random dudes coming into their store trying to sell them something. We can change that by volunteering.”
We’re pretty sure someone accidentally, audibly laughed at the idea. We’re working 70 hour weeks trying to get this startup off the ground and Josh is proposing that we start volunteering at a thrift store?
But the laughter turned to silence when Eric asked, “Well… what other options do we have?”
Harrison was the first to break the silence, “It’s ride or die time, fellas. Let’s do this for Bungii.”
For the next ten weeks, the entire Bungii team (a whole four people at this point) sacrificed our weekends and showed up every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. We weren’t writing code, developing a market launch strategy or analyzing metrics. We were sorting books, folding baby clothes, organizing furniture and plugging in electronics to determine if they’re working properly.
Slowly but steadily, faces became more familiar and names became more easily recalled. The sting of missing Saturday morning college football stung less.
It was around week seven, while buried knee deep in throw pillows, out of season wreaths and 37 different types of lamps when the manager stopped, pointed at us and said, “Hey, aren’t you guys the Bungii guys?”
30 seconds later, Bungii had our first official partnership. And 30 days after that, Bungii closed our $3.4M Angel funding round.
It’s been over two years and that little thrift store, Blessings Abound, remains one of our closest partners. We’re grateful to have them.
And thankfully, we’ve found more efficient ways to establish partnerships since then.