Meet Nikita Chen, the Founder & CEO of LegitGrails, the Market Leading luxury product authentication company. He built the company from the ground up and currently, they are entering Series A. They have been featured in Forbes, Lifewire, Databox, Illinois News Today, Flippa, and more. His mission is to provide authenticity for their stakeholders. They help customers and partners avoid purchasing fake items by inspecting every single detail of the respective item they wish to authenticate. Not only promoting authenticity but also saving you money! Working with sellers and collaborating with designers and Hypebeast stores to bring change!
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Nikita Chen: My name is Nikita Chen and I am the Founder & CEO of LegitGrails, the Market Leading luxury product authentication company.
It all started with me re-selling limited-edition sneakers and other items, Once I got scammed really badly and ended up overpaying thousands on an item that ended up being a well-made fake. That is when I realized that there is a true need for a high-quality authentication service so that other people don’t end up with fake luxury items like I did. And that is how LegitGrails was created! We help our customers and partners avoid purchasing fake items by inspecting every single detail of the respective item they wish to authenticate. We grew from just two co-founders working full stop, to now having a team of over 40 employees across the USA, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Currently, we are entering Series A.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Nikita Chen: While some people are with great talent and abilities, that all fades if they are not willing to get down in the dirt and do the real work. Becoming a great entrepreneur is a test of will and the ability to try and fail over and over until you get it right. No amount of talent is going to protect anyone from that. Some entrepreneurs are born, but most are made.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Nikita Chen: I would consider myself a visionary-led transformational leader. I try to put my focus on helping the team be their best while taking on head first the ever-changing needs of our customers. I believe it’s important for a leader to try continually to embrace change since development allows the company and the team to reach their objectives. I like to manage things with an eye on the future, using an outlined long-term vision. Getting things done for the moment is good, but I don’t like to stick in the past, I learn from it and move only forward. I strongly believe that change is a good thing and with development, we will continue to reach our goals.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Nikita Chen: It all started with me re-selling limited-edition sneakers and other items. Once I got scammed really badly and ended up overpaying thousands on an item that ended up being a well-made fake. That is when I realized that there is a true need for a high-quality authentication service so that other people don’t end up with fake luxury items like I did. And that is how LegitGrails was created! We help our customers and partners avoid purchasing fake items by inspecting every single detail of the respective item they wish to authenticate. Just in two years, we grew from only two co-founders working non-stop to now having a team of over 40 employees across the USA, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Currently, we are entering Series A.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Nikita Chen: Most new business owners understand that it’s not always quick and easy. Regardless, entrepreneurs must assume that it will be even harder than expected, and there will be a strong urge to quit when times get hard. Fight that urge with every fiber of your body, because if you are willing to learn and put in the work, you can make it successful.
Also, don’t get blinded and dazzled by your top-line. I mean, we see nowadays so much in the news that – XYZ company is achieving 100 million valuations, or ABC company is now doing an IPO for this huge amount. Don’t get caught up in those headline figures. You have to work on your business and the real profitability that is EBIT (Earnings before interest and taxes). Some business owners don’t even know what EBIT is. That’s the key metric on which you should be operating your business. That’s how you’re measuring your success.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Nikita Chen: When launching the company, we wanted to reach the goals fast. So we invested in channels that were supposed to bring us more customers. We did it without having the right market fit and proper research-ready. Big mistake! We spent almost the whole marketing budget on these channels without gaining almost any new business. At the time it was devastating. Looking back now, I can see that that was a key pivot point. After we changed our approach completely stopped chasing fast results and doubled down on the long-term growth. It’s true what they say “nothing good comes easy or fast”.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Nikita Chen: Do not let “what you cannot do” interfere with “what you can do”. Take a stoic approach and do what you are currently able to do for your business, rather than worrying about things that you cannot affect. This idea will push you to innovate and move with the possibilities at hand. This has been a defining principle in the past years and especially during the pandemic to uplift my spirit and the people working with me.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Nikita Chen: This is an off-beat one – The worst advice that I’ve got is to save all that you earn in your bank account and don’t spend it. The issue is that the tactic does not consider inflation amongst other factors and the money is sitting stagnant. We all know the saying “To make money you must spend money” and in this case, it is especially true. Instead of creating a large piggy bank, one is better off building a direct business emergency fund and constantly putting the rest into growing the business. It’s making an investment in yourself. That way your initial money is going to give you (and your business) a lot more in time.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Nikita Chen: With the pandemic, the time that people spend online is growing fast. Together with the various lockdowns, this will force even more businesses to shift to online-first. This will lead to many digital platforms becoming more saturated. And force many businesses to innovate while they battle for consumer attention online.
The more common approach to customer attraction will become less effective. To reach and attract clients, small businesses will need to pay more attention to the changing customer behavior. While also listening and observing their developing needs in these uncertain times.
In your marketing efforts, double down on your digital presence. Go deeper into different media platforms that are not as saturated. It’s also smart to put more attention on organic traffic & SEO marketing. We understood this by taking back a step and seeing how can we attract our customers to come to us instead of chasing after them with ads.
During these tougher times, it is more difficult to get new customers. So instead focus on existing customer retention. While trying to generate new business having a strong retention strategy already in place is key. One thing that the Covid pandemic changed, is the major pivot in approach to online & digital channels. Many companies that have made this pivot will not simply switch back once things are “back to normal”. They will continue building their online presence as we continue on regardless of Covid.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Nikita Chen: The most common myth is that entrepreneurship is glamorous and gives you freedom, Being an entrepreneur often puts you as the last line of defense for your team and you should love it! It ultimately is a game of responsibility and freedom. Being the “last line of defense” means that if something goes wrong at the end of it all it’s ultimately your responsibility to make it okay. If you can’t, you are the one to blame. While at first, this might not sound so pleasant, it gives you the ultimate freedom which many entrepreneurs enjoy so much. When you take responsibility for anything that happens instead of it being the fault of somebody else, you’re able to reflect on your methods and systems and improve them continuously. In time, you will be able to develop a system that is both sustainable and easy to scale.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Nikita Chen: I believe that the key trait for any entrepreneur is resourcefulness. Staying motivated and not letting certain progress roadblocks stop you from moving forward. There will be problems and issues when you start a business, being resourceful lets you create solutions while under pressure with limited resources.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Nikita Chen: Be willing to constantly learn and adjust. As you take advantage of new technology and utilize additional marketing opportunities start with learning and understanding them. As you move forward, be flexible and adjust to new learnings that you make. It’s this simple: “Work – Reflect – Learn – Adjust – Repeat.” You have to be lean in your early stages. A great book that I believe every single new business owner should read is “The Startup Owner’s Manual” by Bob Dorf and Steve Blank.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Nikita Chen: If I could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, it would be something that I am tremendously passionate about. In my case, I love motorcycles and restore vintage ones as a hobby. That would be the job that I pick, simply because I enjoy the restoration process so much, it would not even feel like a job to me.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Nikita Chen: Claude Shannon. He is known as the father of the information age, his innovations profoundly changed humanity’s view of the world. If you use any device that communicates digitally with another device, you have to thank him for it.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Nikita Chen for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Nikita Chen or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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