Given Goods Co. is a specialty retailer of edited fashion, accessories and home goods that all give back. Conversation with Cameron Houser, co-founder and co-CEO.
Q: When did you get the entrepreneurial bug?
A: At the risk of sounding cliche, I think I have always had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, though to be honest it was more of an independence streak that made being an entrepreneur make the most sense. I didn’t want to work inside during the summers leading up to and through high school so I started a boat cleaning company in the local marina and later a lobster fishing company with my best friend. Both were pretty decent businesses as I look back on them. Entrepreneur by default.
Q: What has Given Goods looked like since its inception? Has the model changed much?
A: Given Goods has always been a storefront that sells products that give back and in my mind it was always bright, lovely, and full of the very best things. The model has stayed pretty much the same but thankfully we hired Devon (our creative director) to actually make it look the way it should.
Q: Who are some of your favorite social good startups?
A: There are so many! Some are getting a little larger than startup sized, but the community remains small and accessible, which is part of what I love about our space. Aside from every single one of our vendors,right now I am championing groups like ReWork and Catchafire that help qualified people bring their skillsets over to the social sector. Magazines like Makeshift and conferences like The Feast are helping spread inspiring stories and are pushing our whole space forward.
I am also very excited about groups creating meaningful work for people. These might appear in the form of a group of urban bakers at Hot Bread Kitchen in New York or a glass products company we actually work with called Usful Glassworks out of Boise. Its incredible to watch their impact scale and make a tangible difference in an economy that doesn’t need just big ideas, but really also just needs jobs on the ground.
Lastly, I have also recently been very keen on talking with people about Benefit Corporations and all that B Labs is doing to help companies realize their value added visions. Their reach is getting quite large and part of their value proposition is actually signing the ability to protect company values into law, state by state.
Q: Where will Given Goods live when the program ends?
A: By the time we leave Techstars, we will have done a lot of work to make Given Goods scaleable and have plans in place to acquire as many customers as we can heading into the coming year-long retail cycle so that we can test and test and test and keep learning. We have honed in on the set of metrics we feel are most important to go after and are poised to hit the ground running with a completely redesigned user experience and merchandising strategy. We went straight for the hardest questions and have attempted to answer them as best we can each day. We will probably keep doing that forever.
Q: You’re tightly knit with the local tech community. Has Techstars met your expectations?
A: It’s exceeded expectations more than I can possibly explain. We were lucky to have had a lot of friends in previous classes and thought we might have known a bit about what to expect, but its been an incredible experience that I don’t think we even fully appreciate at this point. The program promises a lot; access to very smart people, furious pace, tremendous coaching, and real interactions that will inspire answers to the hardest questions. Not only have we found these to be key tenants of our experience, but we are miles and miles from where we started. No matter what happens for our team and Given Goods, Techstars has been incredibly formative in so many ways.