The employee team at Waterlust holding a business sign on the beach.
Patrick Rynne, CEO of Waterlust, pivoted his business within its existing foundation to meet customer demands during the pandemic. — Waterlust

Entrepreneurship is about knowing when it’s time to take risks and when it’s time to scale back and focus on your core business values, says Patrick Rynne, CEO of Waterlust and the winner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Green/Sustainable Business Achievement Award at the Dream Big Awards.

“In our experience, a good business needs to get the fundamentals right first: create a great product or service, offer excellent customer service and build a system that manages it all efficiently,” said Rynne. “It’s really hard to rush that without sacrificing quality in one or more of those areas.”

Waterlust is a company that brings these fundamentals to every facet of its business. A clothing company with products designed to be a “science communication tool,” Waterlust’s core messaging is advocacy to 16 current causes.

[Small business owners can apply for this year's Dream Big Awards, presented by Spectrum Reach, here.]

“We create fun and functional apparel that visually represents a species or ecosystem in need… donate 10% of profits to leading research and conservation groups and motivate our customers to use what they wear to drive positive change,” explained Rynne.

Optimizing operations to meet pandemic demands

Like many businesses, Waterlust was hit with supply chain roadblocks, increased lead times and delayed manufacturing throughout the pandemic. Rynne credits the fact that Waterlust is a smaller e-commerce brand to their continued success during the pandemic, despite rocky beginnings.

“In that sense, we were just lucky,” he said. “With a direct-to-consumer model and operations that were already quite lean and efficient prior to the pandemic, we were able to weather the initial storm and build back stronger without too much disruption.”

[Read more: 4 Smart Ways to Pivot Your Business Model Now]

Commit yourself to incremental improvement and sustainable growth, and if you keep at it long enough, you’ll build something with a strong foundation.

Patrick Rynne, CEO, Waterlust

Early in the pandemic, Waterlust found it had the capability to provide crucial protective masks when their demand skyrocketed. The company decided to offer these masks at their manufacturing cost, receiving no profit in return for their efforts of shipping “thousands of masks a day” to meet demand.

“This wasn’t a pivot, as our business was and is still focused on our advocate apparel products, but it did impact our operations significantly throughout 2020,” said Rynne.

A ‘slow and steady’ approach creates a strong, lasting business foundation

Rynne said it’s important not to rush the process of creating a strong foundation for your business. Going slow and steady can allow you to make these shifts such as Waterlust’s dive into pandemic apparel.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint!” he said. “I think a lot of businesses that were running too fast got hit hard by the pandemic, whereas those that were growing at a more sustainable pace fared better.”

“Commit yourself to incremental improvement and sustainable growth, and if you keep at it long enough, you’ll build something with a strong foundation,” he added.

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