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The Awkward Tween Stage: When a Company Isn't a Startup or a Big-Name Business

This in-between stage for a company can be challenging. The founder of S.W. Basics Adina Grigore discusses the issues and frustrations she is facing as a pre-teen company.
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Next week, my company  S.W. Basics, a Brooklyn-based natural products company that makes an all-natural and sustainable skincare line is traveling to pitch Target executives. Yes, Target – a huge deal for a company at any stage or size.

It's sort of crazy on a lot of levels. It's amazing that they're willing to meet with us, because we are generally considered too much of a "startup" for that type of account. We need to show them we are worth their time, meaning we have to really prepared for the meeting. And we are doing our best to prove to them to take a chance on us.

My husband (and co-founder) and I have to miss days of work, spend more money than the company can afford to fly out to their headquarters and prepare a presentation that will not compare to one that a company like L'Oreal will present. We will have probably five minutes with them. And for what? The outcome may be that we'll fly back and hear that we're not quite ready but we are incredibly innovative and promising.

But obviously, we're not going to not go. At this point in the game, we need to seize every opportunity -- even if it costs an arm and a leg.

Related: How to Get Out of Your Own Way

It's such a difficult stage of the business. We're like an awkward pre-teen. We want to be taken really seriously but our cracking voice and braces make people send us away with a pat on the head. I don't think "startup" really fits where we are, but also it does. We're not a baby company. We're not an idea that hasn't launched yet. We don't operate out of our apartment, and we're not self-funding. Yet, we aren't L'Oreal. I feel like that deserves a new title other than start-up. But one doesn't exist. 

It would really help in so many conversations though. We need more help with PR, manufacturing, sales and investment. But in so many of these conversations, we're in some strange gray area where we are too big for the small guys and too small for the big guys. Everyone is urgently cheering us on, and telling us to check back in when we've figured it all out. But we need their help to figure it all out! I always want to say, "By the time we figure it out, won't I not need you anymore?"

Related: Lead From a Place of Confidence, Not Fear

And in this meeting with Target, I'm going to want to tell them they must be meeting with us for a reason. Right? On some level, our "greenness" (pun intended!) must be something they think is right for them. So isn't now the perfect time? But I know what they'd say, and I know they'd be right. We're not ready, and the meetings help us get ready. Until we are, we'll just keep taking the meetings and doing the best pitch we can come up with. (And really, really, really believing we're ready, ahem.)

Related: 4 Ways a Small Business Can Scale to Profitability