Some acquisitions come together smoothly and close in a few months.
And then there are more difficult sales, like the one Kat Weaver experienced when she sold her e-commerce company, Locker Lifestyle, in 2022.
“We were under contract four times before we sold,” Weaver said. “[The acquisition] was a roller coaster and [a] very frustrating process.”
Weaver developed the idea for Locker Lifestyle in 2016 after her valuables were stolen during a college tennis practice. In search of a solution, she invented the Wrist Locker wrist wallet along with the help of her mother, who owns a bridal shop and is an experienced seamstress.
The Wrist Locker is an elastic cloth wallet that fits snugly on a person’s wrist as they play sports, exercise or otherwise need hands-free storage. Its zippered pouch can securely hold cash, keys, ID, and a phone.
Growing Locker Lifestyle sales while earning a degree
Weaver started building Locker Lifestyle by focusing on retail sales and Etsy. She sold hundreds of Wrist Lockers while in college, prompting her to shift her plans from the bio-medical track to a double major in entrepreneurship and marketing.
While sales were steady, Locker Lifestyle hit a turning point when Weaver diversified its e-commerce sales channels, she said. Shifting the company’s focus away from retail, she invested in online sales. She also partnered with third parties like the e-commerce brands Zulily and 40Boxes to move larger amounts of inventory in short periods of time.
But in 2017, a fire destroyed Weaver’s mother’s bridal store — and with it, all of Locker Lifestyle’s Wrist Locker materials, patterns and prototypes.
While devastating, the fire helped Weaver hone Locker Lifestyle’s story and she became more determined to grow the company. She also expanded the product range to include headbands.
“[The fire] put me back a few months, but it led me to get motivated in finding funding sources,” Weaver said. “I then sourced a new overseas manufacturer because it was too expensive to source in the States.”
How Weaver capitalized on viral opportunities
About a year after the fire, Weaver — who at the time still had her maiden name, Samardzija — won bronze in the FedEx Small Business Grant program, including a valuable social media opportunity. FedEx placed a video of Weaver’s top pitch tips on their YouTube channel and it resonated with many entrepreneurs.
“[My video] went viral so I had hundreds of founders messaging me asking how to pitch and raise capital,” she said. “That’s when I was inspired to found my second company, PowerToPitch.”
PowerToPitch helps pre-seed stage founders learn how to create a winning pitch. Weaver also partnered with an angel investor so they can teach founders about the investing process and connect founders to investors in their industry.
Weaver’s grant from FedEx kickstarted a series of 22 total grants she earned while operating Locker Lifestyle. She brought in a total of six figures of non-dilutive funding, meaning she didn’t have to give up equity and maintained 100% ownership over the company. That allowed Weaver to focus full time on Locker Lifestyle after she graduated from college in 2019. About a year later, she opened the company’s first warehouse location.
Creating additional space for products proved to be a smart move as later in 2020, Locker Lifestyle’s products were featured on Good Morning America. It was not only a huge boost to sales, but also helped Locker Lifestyle grow its email list to more than 10,000 subscribers.
“Our first launch of Good Morning America brought us more sales in 48 hours than our whole year of business,” Weaver said. “We sold out of inventory so we signed with them three more times.”
Weaver’s advice for entrepreneurs in e-commerce? Test and iterate what channels work best for your products.
“Try as many channels as you can at first to see what few will work best,” she said. “We tested a lot before we saw what would stick. I also got burned by a lot of agencies promising all of this crazy growth. When I learned to do things myself and train internally, that’s where we saw success and better margins.”
The ‘exhausting’ process of selling Locker Lifestyle
After three years of juggling two companies, Weaver was ready to focus exclusively on PowerToPitch.
She used Quiet Light brokerage to find buyers and was able to attract three prospects over the course of eight months. However, each deal fell through.
“The first buyer’s other company ran into issues so he had to save the money,” she said. “The other totally ghosted us for no reason. The third was a husband/wife team in Canada with no e-commerce experience so they were difficult to work with.”
But Weaver was determined to make it work. On her fourth attempt, in March 2022, she successfully sold Locker Lifestyle for six figures to a holding company in New Jersey that requested to remain private. Reflecting on the difficult process, Weaver is glad she persevered.
“I was told to quit and that [selling] wasn’t worth it,” she recalled. “It obviously was worth pushing through once we signed.”
To avoid similar acquisition snafus, Weaver recommended that founders consider what type of buyer they want to attract before entering negotiations.
“Bring on a buyer who has experience in your top industry or at least channels,” she said. “It would’ve been brutal to explain Shopify or Amazon or even retail partnerships with a buyer having no prior experience.”
Weaver now leads PowerToPitch full time and serves on two entrepreneurial advisory boards.