Once a quarter, we highlight a client of ours that is seeing success at retail. This quarter, our spotlight is on AirHood – AirHood is the world’s first portable kitchen air cleaner. Launched on Kickstarter and Indiegogo in 2022, AirHood has sold thousands of units all around the world. We sat down this month with Markus Buck, the Director of Smart Product Concepts, and talked about his company’s product, AirHood.

How would you describe to our readers, what is AirHood? Can you tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur on how you built a successful product company?

AirHood really is the first of its kind in new product innovation, a mobile/portable kitchen air cleaner with a timeless and unique design. Cooking fumes can be very annoying and potentially toxic to our bodies. Besides, many people are dissatisfied with the installed range hood units, due to their difficulty with cleaning and maintenance, the high costs, and let’s be honest – they just don’t look good.

Providing a product that is versatile in its positioning, easy to clean and store, and that can reduce cooking fumes and grease build up close to the cooking action, is what creates a highly innovative twist for any kitchen.

As a company, we are extremely fortunate to have incredibly creative people in our teams and collaboration partners. We love to partner with innovators, startups, and brands to realize unique product propositions. Through our existing infrastructure in product development, manufacturing, and distribution, we can complete projects seamlessly as a one-stop-shop solution provider.

The foundation of a successful company is its team members! Our team’s dedication, spirit, and know-how are top-notch, and I am very grateful to work alongside them every day. This, along with the right selection of partners, best through recommendations, creates an enjoyable working environment. The partners we work with are equally passionate and share our vision.

Many startups are unsure or nervous of the “unknown” variables expanding sales outside of Amazon and their websites. Did you have a similar sentiment before launching the product in retail? How did you decide the timing was right?

The biggest variables come from product insecurity and previous market validation. Unfortunately, contractual terms with retailers can be relatively challenging for upcoming brands regarding return policies, payment terms, and order lead times – this requires a lot of confidence in the product by the brands to ensure its stability and sell-through. Therefore, proofing the product quality and market sales online prior to retail is inevitable. The learnings and customer feedback will help improve the product messaging and targeting for retail significantly.

The timing is right once your sell-through on your own channels is stable and your team can also accommodate operationally adding a retail channel to the sales mix. It takes quite a lot to manage the sales channel mix through your own and retail channels – monitoring pricing, sales reps, marketing, promotions, and inventories. This can easily be underestimated, especially without retail expertise on your side. That is where Retailbound provides its maximum value, working alongside brands to strategize the right approaches and selecting their partners. In addition, Retailbound acts on behalf of the brands in their best interest.

Are there any specific traps to point out for a consumer product startup who is now looking to launch in retail?

Just getting the product on the shelf isn’t going to automatically sell it. Brands and retailers need to work hand in hand to drive program activities in sync to enable good product exposure. Rather than chasing every retail opportunity, be selective with the right partner who also shows excitement and commitment to building a long-term strategy.

What excites you the most regarding the future of AirHood?

It is extremely exciting to build up a new category of portable kitchen air cleaning and disrupt the status quo. We see a long-term demand for this product solution and are working on future versions with significant technical and design improvements.

Being a category first, as the original AirHood, we are pathing the way to serve our customers with more products that solve their needs for a clean cooking/air environment.

How did you build your team as you sought to expand product sales around the world? Why did you decide on hiring Retailbound to help launch, manage, and grow your product sales with retailers in North America?

Being an international company, we rely on strong local expertise and an extensive network to distribute our products. Especially in a market like the US, with a lot of elements to consider regarding logistics, tax, sales channel mix, and keeping a close tie between all partners – brands must rely on a trustworthy partner like Retailbound. Providing their knowledge, we were able to formulate and progressively execute our strategy.

As with many of our partners, Retailbound came through a recommendation. It is reassuring to feel that they are working on behalf of, and in the highest interest of every brand. It can be difficult to manage every partner’s expectation, but with guidance and open discussion from their team, we can manage our opportunities consistently.

Any final words of wisdom for other product entrepreneurs out there trying to grow their brand in retail?

Do not chase every opportunity but be selective and take it step by step. Going too fast can overwhelm a team and a company’s resources/infrastructure. Saying no to some opportunities and sticking to a strategy builds a stronger long-term success foundation.

Also, be honest with your partners, team members, and yourself. Voice your doubt, question, or concern. Asking for advice proactively shows one listens and appreciates input. We are fortunate to have very open communications with everyone and I believe that we are building a very solid partner network pulling it all on one string.

Thank you to everyone participating in our journey and thank you to the Retailbound team for being such an excellent companion in it!