Beth Hurley was attending the NAWBO Women’s Business Conference 2013 in Miami, Florida, when a speaker in a session she was attending asked everyone to write down what they are expert at. Beth wrote three simple words: “Figuring it out.”
Indeed, Beth has been fearless and resourceful in figuring out a lot of things throughout her career and in her years as a woman entrepreneur. Her first career was in nursing—she worked as a registered nurse, a cardiac nurse and a traveling nurse. Her second was in biotech—she researched drugs for rare, fatal diseases in collaboration with doctors from around the globe. “We brought two to market, which was really exciting,” Beth shares. “At the time, the daughter of the owner of the company I worked for had a rare disease that we were studying treatments for in clinical trials. To know that her daughter could now use these therapies to help her was special.”
While Beth was still working in biotech, she met and married her second husband. His father had a typical American success story of selling cookware door-to-door. Beth’s husband had followed in his father’s footsteps by first selling cookware and then opening a plant to manufacture it in 2004. “The factory they were buying cookware from at the time began to outsource to China,” tells Beth, “so my patriotic husband came in, took all the factory workers who had lost their jobs and committed to them that he would build a new, state-of-the-art factory.”
Beth’s husband more recently made another commitment: to launch a line of high-end, heirloom quality cookware that would compete with the All-Clads of the world. Beth would run the company from Florida while her husband would manufacture the product from his plant in Wisconsin. They did a soft launch of 360 Cookware—named for its lid that spins 360 degrees and miniature stovetop oven that cooks food 360 degrees around—in 2010 and officially spun it off as it own company in 2013. “I didn’t know how my nursing background would translate over, but he convinced me to come to work with him to build 360 Cookware,” recalls Beth. “Every role that I am placed in is completely new to me and I just have to figure it out, and that’s what I did with cookware.”
Today, 360 Cookware sells online to customers throughout the U.S. through their online retail store. It is also available in independent gourmet retailers and wellness spas. “For anyone who is in the business of helping people live healthier lives, this is one more tool for them, because with our cookware’s unique design, you don’t have to use as much oil or butter,” explains Beth. “The food cooks in its own natural juices, so it maintains both nutrition and taste.”
Beth can attest to just how great 360 Cookware is. Since blending their families, Beth and her husband now have six children under their roof. That means Beth is doing a lot of cooking each day to keep the family healthy. “There’s a lot of balancing I have going on,” she laughs.
Work is a delicate balancing act as well, as Beth works to grow the business and get it into more distribution channels. She has a small team of three who are equally dedicated to the work and product. “We’re very passionate about providing a tool to everyday cooks and gourmet cooks, and even those who don’t yet know how to cook, that they will be able to use for life and pass down,” says Beth. “Our customers get really passionate about it when they receive it, too. They are amazed by how easy it is to use and clean, so we love and feed off of their passion.”
Together, this team figured out how to sell cookware without going the traditional hour-long tradeshow presentation route. “This has been perfected, and is successful, but we knew it was a small percentage of the market share. “Consumers' purchasing habits are different these days and in order to continue gaining market share, we needed to keep our strategy fresh,” says Beth. “We had to figure out a different way to sell and market our product.”
They hired a business coach to help them become “laser focused” instead of running in multiple directions. They landed on selling the product online and marketing it through grassroots channels, like social media, where they have a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, and networking in groups like NAWBO, where Beth is a member. They also produce cooking videos to become an extension to the kitchen for customers. And their customer service has been key. In fact, Beth says people are blown away by it. “We call them after the purchase to make sure they have received and like their product, and to see if they’ve had a chance to cook anything,” she explains. “We also offer recipes. No other cookware company has the exceptional customer service we provide and I am a stickler for that!”
The team at 360 Cookware has also built their reputation by getting involved in the local community. They support schools and a marathon that raises funds for kids who want to play community sports, but who lack the resources. They are also in discussions with No Kid Hungry about supporting the organization’s campaign to ensure all kids are fed. To further their reputation nationally, they are launching a public relations campaign this year with a PR firm they recently hired. Additionally, Beth was recently certified as a women’s business enterprise and qualifies for new opportunities through supplier diversity programs.
All this hard work is finally paying off. 360 Cookware sales doubled in 2012 and are tracking to quadruple in 2013. They also recently added a distributor in Costa Rica and will begin exporting to Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia in the near future. Beth will also be working on getting funding. “I’m learning about crowdfunding and angel investors,” she says. “That part is intimidating for me because I have never asked for investments, but I will learn how…I’ll figure it out!”