Welcome to the Gust Launch Founder Spotlight! Gust Launch supports a variety of exciting founders doing amazing things. We figured it was about time we start showcasing that. In this ongoing series we’ll highlight the experiences of Gust Launch founders, in their own words, as they navigate the challenges of early-stage entrepreneurship.

Want to share your story? Reach out at spotlight@gust.com.

The Founder, the company, and why we're excited

We’re excited to watch Chris and Youri transform the success of a pilot property into a scalable business--it’s awesome to see founders validate an idea and market before tackling growth. It’s even more exciting to see founders tackling growth with sustainability and local sourcing in mind. We’re looking forward to a future Gust offsite at an Oculis: Mountain Side location.

What is Oculis?

Oculus: Mountain Side is lodging for people who love nature but don’t want to leave behind modern conveniences to enjoy it. Our campuses of sustainably built, design-forward, domed cottages offer the quietude of the forest and the starlight canopy of the sky as well as wi-fi, hot tub, full kitchen, and of course central heating and cooling.

Conveniently located adjacent to the mountains, our guests can ski, snowboard or hike all day, and then come back to a stocked refrigerator and a replacement for the goggles they lost on the slopes, all delivered contactlessly and ordered online.

What has been the biggest adjustment transitioning from a single location to a scalable model?

Creating a company that builds things sustainably in more than one place is really a question of logistics. We spend a lot of time making sure that when we’re selecting vendors, their infrastructure has the reach to make sure we can stay LEED compliant wherever we go. Ultimately, part of our strategy has to be looking to local partners to provide certain elements of our experience, especially food and beverage.

While this can be frustrating, it also makes each campus feel unique to the place that it’s located and we’ve come to view that as a benefit rather than just a challenge, even if it does take more effort to do it this way.

What advice would you give to founders considering an accelerator like NewChip?

I think with any accelerator or incubator, you need to treat it as a vendor relationship. There’s a lot of prestige associated with bigger names like Y Combinator or Techstars, but whatever level you’re at, you have certain expectations of what you’re going to get from that program. You as the founders need to hold that institution accountable for what they said they could provide you, be it introductions to investors, mentorship, or even just learning the basics of corporate structure.

It’s also worth paying attention to the growth an accelerator has experienced. These are companies like any other, and if they’re experiencing massive growth they’re also likely experiencing massive growing pains. You might find yourself frustrated with trying to get the level of service you think you’re owed out of these organizations. The best thing to do is to find someone internal to the accelerator who you have good chemistry with, lean on them to help you navigate the processes you need to get what you want. Then be available to help them if they need it to show you appreciate their effort.

What are the top 3 tips you’d give to founders considering an equity crowdfunding campaign?

Do not go in expecting the platform to do the work. If you show up with nothing but a deck and a great idea you’re going to flounder:

  1. You need to bootstrap probably about $50k to seed your project. Talk to family and friends, figure out what you can pull out of savings, but don’t show up on launch day and hope that people will flood in. Retail investors are looking for safety in numbers.
  2. You need to build buzz well before you launch, like probably 6-8 weeks minimum, 12 would be even better. Ask your family and friends to help. Ask your mentors and advisors to help. Do whatever SEO and organic social media marketing you can. And if that’s not enough, hire outside help. Which brings me to number 3.
  3. You need to have a marketing plan and if you don’t have internal resources to execute that plan, you need to find a vendor. You need to make sure that the vendor gets paid in a way that benefits your goals and that they can provide transparency into their activity

How has Gust helped along the way?

We’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way but one of the big ones early on was that we incorporated as an LLC instead of a Delaware C-corp. A lot of groups, including VCs, can’t or won’t invest in passthrough entities, and that was something we needed to correct immediately. Gust made it easy to fold our old entity, reincorporate and get all the documents we needed in place.

Gust has also helped us figure out what we needed to do to get our co-founder agreement in order so that we could make sure that when the rocketship finally does take off, no one gets left on the launchpad. Lawyers are expensive, and even as someone who thinks that’s a totally justified expense, it’s always great to have a legal resource that can take some of the sting out of building your business.

Where can I learn more about Oculis and the crowdfunding campaign?

You can check out our website www.oculislodge.com, our WeFunder campaign page https://wefunder.com/oculismountainside, this recent article in inhabitant https://inhabitat.com/oculis-mountain-side-sustainable-vacation/, or shoot us an email at info@oculislodge.com.

Whether you’re an investor, a founder, or just a lover of the outdoors, we’d love to hear from you.

Thanks, and we’ll see you on the mountain!

Gust Launch is here to support you throughout your entrepreneurial journey so it’s less stressful, and more successful.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only, and doesn't constitute tax, accounting, or legal advice. Everyone's situation is different! For advice in light of your unique circumstances, consult a tax advisor, accountant, or lawyer.