Interview of Jeremy Litchfield, CEO of Atayne by Sohaib Elbebny on August 20th, 2020.
Atayne makes high performing outdoor and athletic apparel that is safe for people and the planet. They aim to inspire positive environmental and social change through the power of active lifestyles.
Atayne worked with the MCN in 2008, when we were still a competition-style program. They finished third out of 53 companies that year.
“in every competition we ever entered, we were always in the top three. We never won a competition, but we were always in the top three. So, the good news is that we did get money and we also did get resources. Whether that money and resources were worth the time, it’s hard to say you also learn a lot going through that process.[The MCN approach is] a more productive use of the entrepreneur’s time to give feedback because you’re less focused on trying to win a competition and more focused on trying to improve your business. — Jeremy LItchfield
After two weeks of launching Atayne sales, the economic crisis of 2008 hit.
“We had a decent amount of funds committed from angel investors. And a lot of that started to get pulled back. So, we started reorienting the company, getting super lean, and just making sure we could survive the storm. And we did. From that point, we just bootstrapped it to profitability. ” — Jeremy LItchfield
Selling the Company
After six or seven years of showing a consistent but small profit, they were closing in on one million in sales.
The Atayne team started talking with some investors about scaling up. They got a very fair valuation, but the amount the investors wanted initially invest was lower than they needed.
“We were looking to give up more ownership and get the funding we needed to be able to scale appropriately.”
The Atayne team turned down the offer and decided to pursue selling with one thing in mind to ensure that the organization will continue.
“We didn’t want to go through the process of trying to raise money again and just decided this wasn’t where our passion and energy was. And it was time for us to find a way to exit while still hopefully ensuring that the organization and what we built could continue.”
It took the Atayne team almost three years to find their solution.
“It just took us getting very creative and just continually looking for ways [to sell them company].
It became less about us making money on the transaction and more about us. We felt like we had built some extraordinary things and wanted to be able to have them continue hopefully. And that’s what ended up happening, especially with the manufacturer that I did a lot of our cutting and selling with, who is based in Pennsylvania. We came up with a deal for them to continue. And so we still own the brand Atayne, and now we license it out to a couple of different organizations that can produce apparel under that brand.”
What Comes Next
“We love to be able to engage with a company, for say, six to eight months at a time, help them out. I have an idea for a new business probably every other day, but it’s also as opposed to just jumping right in like I always have in the past. I think them through a little bit more because I also know that once it’s built and launched, that’s where I start to lose interest.
So, I need to be sure that it’s something that I want to be with for the long term, or we need to make sure that we have people lined up that could take over the management within a year.
Because that’s not where our passion is of running things. We like to build and create things.”