It’s never been easier to bring a product to market. This perhaps explains why the dynamic CPG industry is booming, averaging 30,000 new product launches each year. And while opportunities abound, competition is fierce.
For small- to medium-size brands, there are many growing pains, especially when it comes to operations. Enter Fiddle, an inventory management software that helps brands track, collaborate, and scale by making it easy to organize products, sales, sourcing, and manufacturing.
We caught up with the software’s co-founder Ken Ojuka to learn more.
ForceBrands: What inspired you to co-create Fiddle?
Ken Ojuka: We started when a good friend of mine, who owns a CPG co-manufacturing company, approached me about building software to help his employees keep on top of all their growth. He said the software in the space was terrible and he couldn’t get his employees to adopt any of them. I agreed. We set up an office in his manufacturing facility which gave me direct access to over 150 of his employees involved in manufacturing a wide variety of CPG products. The software product we built became Fiddle and it helped them grow from about $6 million to $65 million in revenue. From there, we started selling it to other CPG brands, co-manufacturers, and co-packers.
FB: The barriers of entry to build products have dropped significantly. But while getting a product to market is easier than ever before, it’s also more competitive. How does Fiddle help brands stand out?
KO: For CPG brands, product quality and uniqueness are at the core of everything they do. Like you mentioned in your question, the barrier to entry to create a product is low. We love that more people than ever can launch a product and serve a market, but that doesn’t mean product creation is any easier than before. Brands need to formulate a product, source ingredients or components from multiple places, and then make it themselves or outsource to a co-packer. That’s a lot of moving pieces to track. And it only gets more complicated as brands sell more products, release new products, and move into new markets. Fiddle gives them the tools to purchase the materials for production and track in real-time all inventory, SKUs, orders, and purchase orders.
FB: You work with small- to medium-size CPG brands that generate anywhere from $1-20M in revenue. What pain points are you helping them solve?
KO: A lot of the pain points in their inventory operations. With Fiddle, brands will be able to track inventory at all levels across all sites, bring in all orders from all sales channels, send purchase orders to suppliers and track pricing with lead times, get visibility into all raw ingredients and packaging material needs to purchase in order to make your product at a co-packer or in-house.
FB: What differentiates Fiddle from other inventory software out there?
KO: Many CPG products have a shelf life and therefore need to have a lot of traceability, batch records, and/or expiration tracking. Fiddle provides that crucial information at a glance for brands in real-time.
Fiddle also makes it easy to manage your full bill of materials, recipes, or formulations with product costing tools and to quickly source all the necessary items across multiple finished goods to produce everything on time.
FB: How has business been affected by the pandemic? What have been some of the greatest learnings from it?
KO: For starters, it’s made buyers a lot more comfortable making online purchases. That encouraged CPG brands that previously only sold in brick-and-mortar stores to also sell their products online.
Because CPG products are made from so many ingredients sourced from all over the world, it’s also disrupted their supply chains. It’s proven to be more important than ever to have solid relationships with dependable suppliers. And to even have backup suppliers in the event of shutdowns, quarantines, or other restrictions.
FB: How would you describe your leadership style?
KO: That’s a tough question. In general, I’m a pretty laid-back guy but I’m also very driven. I have pretty ambitious goals and am determined to achieve them. I think that’s the way I lead our company. We have fun, enjoy being around each other as a team, but we also know how to get locked in to meet a goal when we need to.
FB: Let’s chat about hiring and team building. What’s most important to you when considering a potential new hire? What qualities or skills do you value most in a Fiddle team member?
KO: We look for doers. Done is better than perfect. In an early stage company, we look for people who dive right in and get their hands dirty. We look for people who enjoy a little chaos and actually prefer to wear multiple hats.
FB: Lastly, what’s ahead for Fiddle? What excites you most about the future of the company?
KO: After a couple of years of bootstrapping, we raised a seed round of funding at the end of 2020. That’s enabled us to grow our team and bring on more customers than ever. We just rolled out incredible direct integrations with Quickbooks Online and Shopify, which our customers are loving. In the coming weeks, we’ll roll out an integration with Zapier which will open up a bunch of other key software integrations.
If you own or work for a CPG brand, you’ll love this free resource from Fiddle: The Ultimate Supplier & Co-Packer List. It contains contact and other info of over 3,000 suppliers and co-packers. Click here to get free access.