Bobby Chacko is a veteran CPG executive and entrepreneur who has spent the last 25 years as a transformational leader driving progress, equality and sustainability across multiple industries.
Working with iconic brands in category leading companies like Mars, The Coca-Cola Company, ABInbev, and GE Capital, he has been a dynamic change agent impacting businesses across US and international markets.
Most recently Bobby was the President and CEO of Ocean Spray Inc., a cooperative with $2 billion in global sales, where he delivered a significant innovative renovation and transformation of a 90-year-old company.
Bobby’s early experiences have no doubt fueled his success. He is the youngest of 4 siblings, born and raised in Nigeria to immigrant Indian educator parents. He began his journey at 15 years old coming to the United States alone as an international college student. Upon graduation at 19, his student visa was expiring leaving weeks to find a job that would sponsor a work visa. Walking building to building, floor to floor through Manhattan’s midtown streets he cold-called businesses. Eventually that hard work and determination persevered.
With days to spare, he became the youngest employee at Marketing Management Analytics (MMA). From that first job at 19 to today, Bobby’s experience and impact on business and community have cut across many facets.
From integrating companies for rapid growth, to founding an in store technology group in financial services, to pioneering new products, to shaping global marketing and innovation strategies for iconic brands, to opening up international markets for fast emerging category busters, to the transformation and restructuring of divisions and companies for strategic events including strategic acquisitions and divestures- each of these experiences shaped and formed Bobby as the strategic and transformational leader he is today.
He has worked across 30+ international markets, including having lived in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, affording him a rare globally insightful skill-set most C-suite executives only dream of.
Bobby is known to be a key driver of diversity in thought and equality in the workplace. He sets significant performance and progressive cultural accountability with his leadership teams as well as himself. He fosters a debate-oriented environment with a strong meritocracy and an edict of accountability “do what you say you will do” balanced with strategy and execution.
Bobby’s community involvement has included support behind local Food Banks, Childhood Health & Education, Habitat for Humanity and community sustainability efforts. Bobby has served on the Board of Directors of Ocean Spray, Consumer Brands Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperative, Trustee of GICL, Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. Bobby has a B.S. in Communications and Computer Science from Southern Connecticut State University and has completed executive education programs at Columbia University in Corporate Finance and GE’s Leadership Development Center in Global M&A.
Bobby and his family currently live in Boston, MA.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
From both the need for healthier purposeful drinks in the marketplace and inspiration from my mother. Rowing up she always made drinks from tea and botanical flowers and sometimes added spices for function. As you would expect from Indian ancestry, Ayurvedic ingredients were a staple for all of our food and drinks. This inspiration was what led me to build drinks with purpose and enrich lives as a mission. I developed EYL 10 years ago and for 5 years pounded the pavement to sell products.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Calls, calls, calls…search for leads for investments and talk to sales teams and customers to sell, sell, sell.
As a founder getting sales is key after development of products.
Plan out 90 days at a time to layout work load and critical milestones. Busy work as an entrepreneur is meaning less. Work that gets you revenue and investment are the only focus. Find good people that can get things done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
One of my hang-ups is when people say “I have an idea” but do nothing about it, and continue to have ideas without any action. My approach is simple, Step 1: Clearly and concisely articulate the idea?
If “Yes”, then Step 2: Define the problem that the idea is solving in detail.
Step 3: Prove it! Clearly layout a plan to prove the concept of the idea with requirements even the “I don’t knows” i.e. blind spots.
This exercise forces you to put the pen to paper and leave areas blank where you do not have expertise or do not know. Sometimes a picture does not have to be perfect to know what it means. Tap into friends and associates to help fill in the blanks
Finally, Step 4: Pilot and run the numbers for scale. Find a good finance person to validate and pressure check your assumptions and results.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Covid Inspired “mobility of Living”. It’s redefining how, where, and when to create a living. Technology, Nutrition, Connectedness and Human capital are the driving categories that will intersect to shape a different kind of future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Prioritize few and ignore most.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t seek perfection and don’t sweat the small stuff and share your troubles.
Fail fast, Fail often, but Fail Forward.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Hire only the best people to get the job done, period! hire slow, fire fast! It’s a business!
A business is not a charity nor a social club and must be performance driven as an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Network, network, network to get perspectives, business relationships, customer leads, and creativity.
Entrepreneurs often get caught up 100% with the work and forget to have human interaction, thus disconnect sometimes from people that can simplify the work or help you grow. Be the evangelist of your vision and your challenges. People want to help.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Point 8, people create leads that create opportunities to pitch business to customers or investors. That networking is what allowed me to get into leading retail accounts. Not just through a trade show.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Know when you have to take money and when you don’t. Capital always comes with different hooks and covenants. While control is important it’s not the end all be all. I had to turn down a significant capital offering because I did not want to lose control of the company in the event I defaulted on the offering. Makes sense right. Why I believe it was a failure was I had delayed inventory to a customer as a result and lost another customer. I eventually borrowed money from family and continued from a recovery position.
The lesson was, entrepreneurial efforts require risk taking. Belief in your ability to execute is critical. If you blink all it did was instill doubt and essentially loss of business opportunities. Be smart not stupid!, as an entrepreneur sometimes your belief must trump stupid.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The need for connectedness is becoming a humanity issue as evidenced by migrations, geopolitical, social, religious fragmentation, increased dating sites, etc. People do not feel connected. Our differences are actually separating us versus uniting us. Tools like zoom, Xbox, phone, Facebook, tv, bars, concerts, and restaurants are still isolation driven. Human connectedness is lacking and now threatened.
The business opportunity is how to teach people to find common areas of interest and the power of community and why it’s good for mental health and sustainability, but it has to be taught at a local level and scaled utilizing all tools including technology.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A heating coffee cup. Saves on coffee waste and coffee stays warm through to the end of an exciting book. No more cold coffee and the end of reading something, yuck.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
LinkedIn. It helps keep a tab of who’s where and who knows who.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Art of Power by Thich Naht Hanh.
It created an awareness in me of my “Why”. It’s an enlightening book that explores the impact of power, influence, and it’s impact on others and your happiness. It’s up to you to manage you.
What is your favorite quote?
“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” – Mark Twain
- Know your mission: Ideas are born from a natural curiosity and often some experience of self. Never discount your capability and commitment. Put to paper your ideas and leverage the people around you. Rinse and repeat.
- Fail fast, Fail often, and Fail forward: Failure is success around the corner. Believe in yourself and the possibilities. Nothing is guaranteed but progress, because you are trying. Take the risks because you believe in the idea and in yourself.
- Find your Why and harness it: Determine your reason to pursue an entrepreneurial path and think through who you become as a result and what impact you want to have on people along the way. The journey is lived and experienced not traveled and realized.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.