Formed in 2015 by CEO Chad Hetherington, The Stable is a services agency that acts as broker between tangible consumer products and retail distributors like Target and Best Buy.
Over the past two years, The Stable has grown to 25 employees and now, plans to double that over the coming term.
As consumer’s shopping patterns are evolving, The Stable is reinventing a 50 year old traditional broker model by pursuing new avenues of expertise including social commerce and e-commerce.
“With the retail landscape changing, we are seeing brands make considerable shifts towards new and emerging distribution platforms to reach the consumer,” Hetherington says.
“Our role over the next few years is to position the agency to support our brand partners across all platforms.” The $4m capital infusion is being used primarily for two purposes: to bolster the growth of the Minneapolis office in social and ecommerce; and to launch a second office in Seattle to support more brands on Amazon.com.
We spoke with Hetherington to discuss this milestone and more:
What’s working for you at The Stable?
Fundamentally, we come from a brand-first perspective vs. retail first; second, we go beyond just the walls of the retail store and manufacturing floor, always thinking about how to help brands with omnichannel strategies such as social and ecommerce.
There’s many platforms and places that consumers are interacting with and making purchasing decisions, something we are versed in. Some clients just need one solution, others need all of them.
Why $4m and why Gen7 exclusively?
We have a plan to double our team between Minneapolis and Seattle over the course of the coming year and Gen7 Investments seems to like what we’re looking to build. As for the exclusivity, we found everything we we’re looking for with them and generally believe that having one partner is better than having multiple ones.
In your model, do the retailers come to you, brands come to you, or both?
Both. Target and Best Buy do come to us with specific goals or gaps they want to fill and on the other side, consumer brands — whether startup or established — also reach out to us on a regular basis.
What’s the scope of your retail network?
Based on my past experience as head of sales at Quirky, we have a network that reaches into places like Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, QVC, while Target and Best Buy are square in the center of it.
Now, with this latest fundraise, we’ll be working closer than ever with Amazon, there’s a ton of e-commerce talent in Seattle given the ripple effect they’ve created.
What can The Stable do by physically being in Seattle that I can’t do from Minneapolis?
To be closer to in proximity to the many buildings that they occupy…we want to be part of the conversation, not listening in from miles away.
How do you make money in the business?
We provide research and strategy, in addition to performance-based engagements under an agency model. We really have to make sure we’re picking the right horses.
For example, in a recent project we did with an early stage entrepreneur, we built out the Shopify site, established his social & digital channels, and produced content. We were able to work alongside him as the product inventor to really get setup online to sell direct to consumer.
How many clients do you currently represent?
About 85 different consumer brands that range from the IoT to food.
What are you looking for when assessing a brand/product?
It has to be interesting! I could say money or a following, but if the product is unique and different, that is what catches our attention first off.
What areas excited you as you look ahead?
I’m excited by wearables in both the healthtech and babytech, those are two booming areas. The future will be more about moving away from the basic utility side of technology products and into the personalization and lifestyle improvements.
What about those retailers like Best Buy and Amazon who are bolting on tailored services around their products?
I think it’s great! Having service offerings like warranties, installation, maintenance, delivery, etc. are only going to get more targeted and unique over time. The more they can build services around and on top of their products, the better off they will be.
Are you working with another huge online retailer, Walmart.com?
We have friends there, but technically are not engaged with them right now.
Any thoughts on Amazon’s push into the SMB space via marketplace and the lack of anything comparable coming from Target or BestBuy?
Amazon is really becoming everything if you think about it, they are moving into a number of different businesses very quickly. They are logistics, retail, marketing, technology advertising, content, food, services, etc.
You don’t see Target or Best Buy going after much of this; some customers care about that and others don’t.
Minnesota claims two of the largest online retailers in the country, which you’re familiar with. Can you speak to the biggest one, Amazon, as it relates to The Stable?
Seattle is a huge opportunity, it’s a market we’ve considered over the past few years and feel that now is the time to do it. Our plan is to replicate some of what we’ve done in Minneapolis over the past few years.
It’s staggering how many of our clients do business on Amazon and they seem to come up in just about every conversation I have these days. Our thesis is that if clients have a good experience on the Target and Best Buy side, then they will also work with us on the Amazon side.
The Minneapolis and Midwest market is also generally underserved when it comes to selling on Amazon, something we hope to change over the course of the coming years.
What effect do you think it would have on Target or Best Buy if the State of Minnesota lured Amazon HQ2 here with special incentives?