A Slice on Ryan Gnesin, Co-Founder and CEO of Elevate Brands
“Every day there are many, many obstacles. We see those as a gift in some sense because if they weren’t there, life would be too easy, and then there’d be too much competition. We wouldn’t be able to have the success we have.” This unusual perspective about obstacles comes from Ryan Gnesin, the Founder and CEO of Elevate Brands, based out of New York, NY, and Austin, TX.
Gnesin is a true global citizen. Originally from South Africa, Gnesin moved to Australia when he was 14 where he earned his Business Degree in Finance and Economics. He worked as a Certified Financial Planner for a bit, then moved on to a stint in the life insurance industry. Eventually, he moved to both Switzerland and Indonesia to work with commodities trading giant, Glencore. This was his first brush with trading in physical commodities. After years of having spent more time in aircrafts than on land, he decided to move once again. His destination this time? New York City.
It was here that Elevate Brands was born. In his words, “I became very interested in the e-commerce world and began experimenting with different methods and ways of selling products on Amazon. I tested everything, from selling shoes, to groceries, to toys, clothing and apparel. Eventually, I decided that buying businesses on Amazon was a good idea, and so I bought the first business in 2019.” From then on, there has been no looking back for Gnesin and Elevate Brands. By February 2021, he had bought several more businesses, closing his Series A funding.
Gnesin has always been an entrepreneur. In fact, he started his very first business, “Ryan’s Carwash” at the ripe old age of 10. Gnesin’s choice of becoming an entrepreneur has been inspired by several things. For one, he has always loved business and the idea of building something from the ground up and making it successful. For another, he wants to leave a rich legacy behind.
There are several lessons that freshly minted entrepreneurs can learn from Gnesin. One of them being: to work in a corporate setup for a while. For him, his experience in a corporate environment helped him to learn from his mistakes, as well as from people who mentored him along the way. He found this invaluable when he decided to build his own business. Another really valuable lesson one can learn from him has to do with his belief in momentum. He believes that life is all about momentum, either positive or negative. Positive momentum, which is what helps one succeed, is an accumulation of a lot of tiny, micro wins. Step by baby-step, like the snowball effect, one can build one’s way to success.
It also helps when you have a great partner-at-arms. For Gnesin, James, the Co-Founder of Elevate Brands, is that person. Gnesin believes in building a team that is talented, committed, and culturally aligned to the values that Elevate Brands espouses. Gnesin has a winning formula for hiring: hire brilliant people who come with subject matter expertise and make it conducive for Elevate to come up with winning strategies and solutions. Amazon’s increasing advertising costs is another area of concern for them right now. Unfazed by challenges, perhaps because Gnesin has accepted them as a part of life and business, Elevate Brands is surging ahead at rocket speed.
A catchphrase Gnesin has is: Meaningful Work, Meaningful Relationships. This, for him, defines true success. Being engaged, happy and fulfilled by what one does, while at the same time making a difference, according to Gnesin, is the ultimate measure of success. Open to new ideas and different ways of doing things, Gnesin took a call to start operating in Austin, TX. Having a remote, global team made it easy for him to take a call on going ahead with Austin as another location. His 10-year vision for Elevate Brands is, “To have an Elevate Brand in every human’s hand.” They are looking at selling across the globe and eventually see themselves going public. Ultimately, building some amazing legacy brands that they feel very proud of.
To achieve that dream, raising capital becomes quite necessary. In the early days of raising money, they were not overly sensitive to valuation and terms, preferring to rather get on with it and move with speed. In fact, this is a very important piece of advice Gnesin has for entrepreneurs, he wants to tell them not to be overly concerned to maximize value in the early stages of a business. His advice is to just raise the capital and get on with establishing the business. Get moving, keep moving, that’s what’s important. Then, if you do a good job, you attract funding, using minimal effort. Being patient, doubling down on successes and micro wins form critical elements of his long-term success formula.
A theory Gnesin adopted from day one, sale one (a pair of Adidas shoes) is the Asymmetric Risk-Reward one. “I’ve always been a believer that if you take enough of those asymmetric risks, where the potential upside is greater than the potential downside, and you take those educated, low-risk bets consistently, then over time, unless you are very unlucky, you should build a very successful business.”
Finally, after 5 years of long hours and not much self-care, Gnesin’s parting words are a good lesson for all. He still works very hard but also manages to set aside time to hit the gym and work on his key relationships. It’s all about achieving work-life integration and constantly growing in both personal and professional domains. This just about sums up what Gnesin and Elevate Brands are all about.
Ryan Gnesin received his Bachelor’s of Commerce in Finance, Business Strategy and Economic Management from the University of New South Wales. He started his career as a Life Insurance Advisor with MLC Australia, then joined Glencore as a Commodities Trader. In 2016, he co-founded Elevate Brands and now leads as CEO. Connect with Gnesin on LinkedIn.