It’s interesting to hear what is next for the CEO of an aggregator. Anyone exiting their business grapples with the same question of “What is next?”
Andrew Farris is a former pastor who migrated to digital marketing. From there he rose to CEO of 4×400, an ecommerce aggregator that once owned seven brands. Having recently resigned from that position, he’s now assessing priorities and evaluating his next career move. It’s a not uncommon position for many executives and entrepreneurs.
He told me, “It’s a weird feeling. For the first time in my career, I’ve stepped back and asked myself, ‘What do I want to do? And, what am I worth on the job market?’”
He and I recently discussed his immediate outlook, our business priorities, likes and dislikes, and more.
Eric Bandholz: You’re no longer the CEO of 4×400.
Faris: True. I’m an unemployed marketer. I’m still the host of Ecommerce Playbook, the podcast. I have no firm plans as to what’s next.
It’s been interesting to step back from the CEO role and reflect, “What did I like about that job? What did I not like?” It’s not all roses, as you know.
Bandholz: How many brands were you managing at 4×400?
Faris: It ranged from three to seven. We have three brands now, and we’re going down to one, Bambu Earth, our skincare company. That’s part of why I’m leaving 4×400. Bambu Earth is a great brand. But it’s not what I want to work on in terms of my interests and passions.
We’re selling the other two brands: Slick Products and Modern Fuel.
Bandholz: We have listeners to this podcast interested in buying companies. Give them the sales pitch.
Faris: Slick Products makes cleaning goods for off-road vehicles — ATVs, UTVs, dirt bikes. The company was founded by a family in Hawaii that grew up riding dirt bikes on red clay. When we acquired it in 2018, it had done $100,000 annual revenue. It finished 2021 at $5.5 million at about 30% ad spend. Roughly $3.5 million is direct-to-consumer; about $1.3 million is on Amazon; around $500,000 is wholesale.
The other is Modern Fuel, which sells beautiful, well-engineered writing instruments. It was created by an aerospace engineer who wanted the best-designed, best-engineered pens and pencils.
Modern Fuel had about $200,000 in annual sales when we acquired it in late 2020. It will finish 2021 at about $1.7 million with roughly a 33% ad spend. It’s almost entirely direct-to-consumer. Modern Fuel is a good, growing brand and doing all of the right things in that stage of business.
4×400’s hypothesis has been to acquire brands with sub-$300,000 in annual revenue and then grow them quickly. If listeners are interested in acquiring Slick Products or Modern Fuel, email us.
Bandholz: I’ve had Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens on this podcast. Did he turn you down?
Faris: He’s all fountain pens. He told me, “As soon as you have a fountain pen, send it to me.”
Bandholz: So you’re now exploring career opportunities.
Faris: Yes, I am. It’s a weird feeling. For the first time in my career, I’ve stepped back and asked myself, “What do I want to do? And, what am I worth on the job market?”
It’s a unique moment with brands, aggregators, and agencies — all are hiring people. I need to sort through what there is to like and not like about each of those.
I certainly enjoy brands. I love ecommerce marketing, the combination of conceptual and analytical. I’m interested in the people I work with and the culture. I’m not interested in working 70 hours a week. I have other interests in life, a family.