- Insight: Do not fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy.
- Insight: Find a job where you can feel fulfilled.
- Insight: Hire coaches to help you navigate difficult situations.
Monday, February 12th, 2024
Samantha Coxe was working as an M&A attorney at Skadden, one of the preeminent law firms in the country, when she came up with the idea for an automatic flosser. She continued her legal journey and joined Skadden, one of the preeminent law firms in New York. Despite her success at Skadden, she felt a calling beyond law and eventually left her job to create Flaus. On a mission to revolutionize flossing, Sam built a community of Founding Flausers and championed accessibility-focused innovations to support disabled communities. Recently, Flaus launched direct to consumers. Read our case study to discover how Sam started.
Initial cost: $80k
Funding: $2M seed round, $4M raised total to date
HSS: What was your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
When I was in undergrad in 2012/ 2013 I identified this up and coming trend of flower crowns. I actually started making flower crowns in my sorority bedroom for game day. I think I ended up selling about like $30,000 worth of these headbands, and I sold on Etsy as well. That was my first time venturing into identifying a need, sourcing materials, pricing etc.
HSS: How did you decide it was worth the risk to leave your career as an attorney to go on this entrepreneurial journey?
That was one of the most difficult decisions I made. Up until that point, I had invested so much, time and money into becoming a lawyer. I studied for the LSAT, went to law school, studied for the bar exam, and practiced law for four years. I was pretty deep into this career path, and making that jump was certainly a very scary prospect. I remember this seemingly very insignificant moment that stuck with me. I was working on a massive entertainment deal, and I was in the middle of a due diligence memo. It was in February, so we took a break to make Valentine's flower bouquets for other female colleagues in the office. It was in that exact moment that I thought “Wow, I just got more intrinsic value and purpose out of making a flower bouquet that I've had at one second at this job.” I realized I worked so hard to get to Skadden and then I was there and not feeling fulfilled at anything I was doing. I'm at one of the most prestigious law firms, working on the coolest deals and still it wasn't enough. That was really the moment for me that I thought “I am meant to be doing something creative. I want to feel this purpose and value in what I'm spending my time doing.” I actually got an executive coach to help me get ready to leave the law firm because it really felt like a breakup. It was so scary and risky, but the thing that I've always reminded myself throughout this whole journey is that you'll never regret an investment in yourself. That was really what gave me the courage to leave. I put in my notice in February, left by March, and launched Flaus via an Indiegogo campaign in April 2021. I have not looked back for a single second, and having my law degree has been incredibly valuable.
HSS: Flowers seem to bring out your entrepreneurial mindset whether it’s flower crowns for game day or bouquets for your coworkers.
I have never even linked those two together. That is actually it's so crazy.
HSS: Since you have a legal background can you tell me more about how you’ve used that to your advantage?
It's been so incredibly valuable. I've done all of our formation documents, and I mark up every single agreement that comes across my desk. It’s likely saved 1000s of dollars in legal bills. Of course there are certain aspects though that you want a third party firm to support because they have more perspective and expertise on specialized legal topics.
HSS: Why did you decide to raise money?
Flaus is a consumer electronic hardware good meaning it's a capital intensive endeavor. I often joke “why didn’t I think of the squatty potty or scrub daddy?” Electronic hardware comes with expenses relating to engineering, R&D, and prototyping. Then it’s expensive to set up the manufacturing lines and purchase inventory because it requires more expensive inputs and more specialized laborers. As I started learning more about the space and talking to other founders who had walked this path before me, I knew needed to raise significant money. I was quite fortunate that I had sizable savings. Many of my other friends were putting down payments on a home, but I decided to take all that money and invest it in myself. I actually put up about the first $80-$100k. I then raised $2M from friends and family. These were all people that knew me, my passion and resiliency, and believed in me. Now 2.5 years later we've raised an additional $2 million seed round led by Yeti capital. As I raised, I wanted to make sure Flaus was not overfunded because that can then lead to overspend. You can find yourself doing marketing efforts that are too big of a blow on your operational expenditure. At the same time, I also need sufficient runway. Fundraising takes a lot of time, so I wanted to raise enough money to put my head down and just focus on executing as opposed to worrying about keeping cash in the company.
HSS: How were you able to get those investments?
My fundraising strategy relied on belief, good timing, and pitch practice. For the first $2M I was incredibly fortunate to have friends and family believe in me. It was people who knew me and my story. I built intimate relationships with my friends, family, and coworkers, so I already established an immense amount of trust. My first 15 investors were my Skadden coworkers. To give you some background on my career there, I was invited to join the partnership track as a second-year associate which is pretty much unheard of. I don't know if they even really believed in Flaus, but they believed in me because they saw my work ethic day in and day out. The second $2 million was certainly different. The seed round was institutional investors as well as angels. One of my keys to success is that I have a product and a company that people immediately understand. Once I pitch Flaus many people have the thought “how does this not already exist.” When I heard "nos" it wasn’t because they didn’t like the product, they just didn’t like the industry. With Flaus though, I experience this aspect of this frictionless movement that lets me know that I'm creating something that deserves to exist in the world and people are drawn toward it because they see its inherent value. That's what I fundraise off of. I home in on my narrative and story and continue to refine my pitch through practice. You give a couple of pitches, and you notice “Okay, I'm getting these certain questions. Let me make sure I'm incorporating that into my next pitch.” I also had great timing. A lot of this was during and beginning of COVID, so the macroeconomic environment was a lot better than it is now. I had a lot of luck in fundraising, but it is still a grind and there are lows.
HSS: Can you tell me about your customer discovery process and getting those initial customers?
We initially launched on Indiegogo, and we’re so privileged to be able to have such a strong group of brand advocates. We call our Indiegogo backers, our Founding Flausers. They are so open to getting on calls with us and to talking about what draws them to this product, what they like about it, and what can be improved. We gained a lot of insights about the more psycho-behavioral issues. One of the stories I love to tell is when I started Flaus I was a non-flosser, and I was thinking that I'm going to help other non-flossers start flossing. I came home with nine cavities while I was at Skadden because of the stress. It was horrific and embarrassing and very expensive, so I set out to help people like me. As I sent out my first survey for Flaus, I discovered our lowest hanging fruit is actually the daily flosser, not the never flosser. These are people that already understand the benefits of flossing and want an easier, better, more comfortable way to do it. My hypothesis was turned on its head. I also wasn’t expecting disabled communities to be such strong advocates. I actually ended up having about three customers who were blind reach out to say, “Hey, I'm really interested in buying this product, but I can't place an order on Indiegogo (for accessibility reasons). Can you help me?” I ended up getting on calls with each of these customers, and I asked, “What drew you to this product, and why?” I discovered that individuals who are blind lack manual and fine motor dexterity, which is required to handle something as small and thin as a floss pick or a floss string. I had no idea that many communities find traditional flossing physically impossible. That was the moment I thought “Wow, Flaus’s ergonomic handle is a great size and easy to use with one hand. The floss assist motion which uses our proprietary vibrations is an extremely accessible device.” I had no idea about these use cases and how meaningful they are to the blind community. We wanted to be the first to make the “flosser” truly accessible for everyone.
HSS: Do you have any additional advice for female founded businesses?
Absolutely. First, for anyone that is interested, I would want to be a resource for other female founders because I know how hard it is to find female mentors in the space.
Second, in terms of raising I noticed that I had to answer so many more questions, and I had to be so much more prepared than my male counterparts. With all that preparation you should not sell yourself short. You need to know the value that you provide and if you are finding that people are not recognizing it, then they're not meant to be your investor, or co-founder, or your employee.
Lastly, I would suggest really leaning into the female founder community I have found so many incredible other female founders. It’s been really helpful to have a sense of community and not feel so alone. It takes legwork, but it's so worthwhile.
- Do not fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy.
- Find a job where you can feel fulfilled.
- Hire coaches to help you navigate difficult situations.
- Lean into your background to save money.
- Research your industry to understand and predict expenditures.
- Network with other founders to learn more about the industry.
- Make sure you don’t raise too much money so you can be savvy with what you raise.
- Establish trust and credibility in all your relationships.
- Refine your pitch as you gain more insight from questions that investors ask.
- Ensure that you are overprepared for investor meetings if you raise.
- Find a female founder community.
I messaged Samantha and we set up a call over email.