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The Entrepreneur Series: Kapil Kalokhe, Senior Director

Kapil Kalokhe grew up in a family of physicians and he believed he would join the “family business”. It wasn’t until college, after completing his first year of medical classes at Emory University, he decided to change trajectory. After thinking long and hard, he decided his love of math and economics warranted becoming a finance major. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Accounting in 2003. 

Following graduation, he started working at Giuliani Capital Advisors. He was focused solely on restructuring companies, which, though interesting, could also be somewhat depressing. It was difficult watching people lose their jobs or the doors close altogether on companies almost every day. It took its toll. Kapil decided he wanted to work with healthier companies to help them become even more successful. 

He transitioned to investment banking at Robert W. Baird & Co. where he focused on mergers & acquisitions of middle market companies. At this early stage of his career, Kapil worked closely with successful business owners (primarily family owned, founder led) to help them achieve the “fruits” of their labor.  During these interactions, Kapil admired the passion many had for their business and found it inspiring. He learned what it took to start a successful business and aspired to pursue a more entrepreneurial path.

Because of this increasing interest, he decided to pursue a Master’s degree and better equip himself to manage a business. Kapil earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in 2009.  Following graduation, Kapil secured roles in corporate finance at PepsiCo and Orbitz, where he gained valuable operating company experience.

Unfortunately in 2015, Kapil found himself a casualty following Expedia’s acquisition of Orbitz. However, from these corporate positions, he learned how to execute business plans from finance, sales and marketing perspectives. The opportunity to touch all aspects of the business typically only come at such large, corporate companies; he was thankful for the skills acquired.

His time had finally come! Following Orbitz, a friend expressed interest in creating a new product. She would need his financial, sales and marketing background. As a physician, she had found a gap in the baby bottle market: She wanted to create an attachment that would prevent saliva or bacteria from flowing back into the bottle during feeding. The attachment is inserted into the cap and rests in between the bottle and its cap. The key value add of the new product, called aLoo, was that the one-way valve serves as a reservoir and additional air vent. This solution ensured babies would not ingest excess air during bottle feeding (which could cause colic), while also extending the shelf life of the remaining unconsumed milk in the bottle. 

They started with a homemade prototype and worked long and hard to perfect it. They focused on creating a product that would be compatible with the most popular bottles in the market. Once perfected, they patented the product so no one else could copy it. They then mass-produced it and sold it on both their website and Amazon. This venture challenged Kapil in many ways: gauging market interest, creating the packaging, building a brand, creating online content, learning how to optimize online advertising through Facebook and Google, and so on.

Once they started shipping, they were growing 20-30% monthly. With sales doing well and customers satisfied, the next task was to grow the business. The team struggled to properly address customer feedback and refine the product. This process of iterating proved to be time consuming and expensive. Ultimately, they realized the opportunity for business would be stronger if they could partner with established brands to leverage their marketing and network. Their company’s utility patent allows them to do this and Kapil’s partner is currently working to make it happen. 

Kapil and his business partner vetting manufacturers in September 2017.

In the meantime, Kapil decided his expertise was no longer needed; the product had gone as far as the duo could take it themselves. Around this time, he had reached out to Saggezza co-founders, Arvind and Socka, to work on a part-time consulting project. The project didn’t work out but they all kept in touch. As Kapil got to know them and learn about their entrepreneurship experience, the more interested he became in working with them. 

Kapil decided Saggezza fit his risk profile perfectly and joined Saggezza as a Senior Director on October 1 – exactly one year ago. He was brought on to build out our Business Advisory Services practice. This new practice is focused on guiding company CFOs, senior finance leaders, and key stakeholders to achieve the objectives outlined in their strategic plans and investment theses. His time here has been great so far; he recently hired a new consultant to work under him to help build out his projects and client base. He likes that the environment is very entrepreneurial with the support of seasoned entrepreneurs to help mitigate some risks. He also likes how open we are to experimenting and testing new ideas that will help grow the BAS practice and improve the business. 

Kapil at a recent Saggezza golf outing.

The advice he would give to young entrepreneurs starting a new business or building a product would be, “Realize the importance of having advisors or a proper network to ask questions and solicit feedback on your ideas.” The mistake he made with his product was being overly protective of it before the patent was approved; a little more feedback from other entrepreneurs would have been valuable in learning where he initially needed to focus time and energy. But the entrepreneurship venture also taught him that building something from the ground up is incredibly rewarding and in-depth exposure to all functions in the business is invaluable to one’s career.

Have questions for Kapil? Want to know more about this series? Contact us here.

Saggezza is a proven technology and consulting partner that delivers personalized, high-value solutions to accelerate business growth.

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