Fuel Growth Podcast: From Growth Guru to Category Creator
Growing a company is hard work but can be fun too, especially when you do it with friends.
On this episode of the Fuel Growth podcast series, my co-host Lizzy and I got to know Jordan Peace, Co-Founder and CEO of Fringe. Fringe is a lifestyle benefits company that hosts a marketplace of perks and benefits for companies to provide to their employees. Think of everything from yoga to virtual therapy to financial consulting. We learned how Fringe found a foothold to achieve extraordinary growth via inbound marketing, growing the company from a team of seven to a team of 62 over just two years.
Hailing from the world of financial planning, Jordan co-founded Fringe with a group of college friends after realizing that most people don’t understand their company’s corporate benefits. At its inception, the “lifestyle benefits” category did not exist. Jordan created Fringe to turn corporate benefits into a simple concept that people could quickly understand and get excited about.
Creating a New Category
It takes a special level of courage to set out to create an entirely new type of company. But that’s what truly bold entrepreneurs do. When Jordan founded Fringe along with his four close college friends, the “lifestyle benefits” category didn’t really exist, even though the need for it was there: “We’ve spent so much time teaching people about benefits that we came to understand two things: one, people don’t understand their benefits, and two, because they don’t understand them, they don’t really appreciate them […] what if there were benefits that you didn’t need to be sick, or dead, or disabled or 65 years old to benefit from your benefits? What if there are things that kind of spoke into your life right now? […] And one thing that’s really exciting for us right now is I’m hearing the phrase ‘lifestyle benefits’ from outside [of the industry]”.
When Preparation Meets Opportunity
Fringe launched in 2019, the year before COVID hit. Their initial lifestyle benefits marketplace became available months later, just before the pandemic lockdown started in 2020 with the accompanying Great Resignation. And with an unproven product and little revenue in an undefined market category, the common wisdom would be to reduce spend, slow growth, and prepare to weather the storm. But Jordan and the team did the exact opposite. They saw the market opportunity and invested even more money in driving awareness and interest.
And thankfully, it worked: “Our investors and advisors were basically saying ‘Hey, hunker down, save cash, don’t hire, don’t spend a bunch on marketing, and we ignored all of them. And we did the opposite and we spent money on marketing. And thank goodness, we did […] And the inbound leads started coming in. And we started hearing from name-brand organizations that were much bigger and much more notable than any customer we currently had. And the tide has started to change for us in mid-2020. And it’s been a great ride ever since.”
The timing couldn’t have been better for Fringe. Just as companies were quickly figuring out how to transition their employees to remote work, Fringe was building an HR solution for rewarding and retaining remote employees. Fringe quickly drove growth through content marketing, paid search, customer advocacy programs and simple word-of-mouth. All the cornerstones of an inbound marketing strategy.
Investing in Great Employees as a Growth Strategy
Besides inbound marketing, Fringe focused heavily on employees and growing their team after raising capital: “We invested so much in our people right away, then they started speaking out about Fringe on LinkedIn and other social networks and really made a name for us as an employer […] We hired 25-30 people after that first raise and really just started ramping up everything from marketing, to sales to the product team […] And then we raised again, and now we’re up to like 62 people in the company.”
In addition, hiring self-motivated and self-managed employees allows Fringe to focus more on growing the business and less on managing people: “You have to highly trust the people that you’re hiring if you’re going to give them a ton of freedom […] I’d say we’re slow to hire and we’re a little bit quick to fire.” Jordan describes how mature employees who can manage their time well will give the company everything possible and “act like a business owner” to drive growth.
Learning From Mistakes
As a business starting a new benefits category, Fringe has made mistakes and learned from them: “It’s my natural inclination. I was in sales and I think like a marketer”, says Jordan. “So sales, branding, marketing, captures my attention, and I think it probably captured a little bit too much of our money and our attention and our time in the first year. I think we should have doubled our focus on the product in the first year.”
Listen to our podcast conversation here to learn about lifestyle benefits and how inbound marketing can help you grow your business. If you want to catch up on our previous episodes, you can do so here or on your favorite podcast app.
Lizzy and I really enjoyed meeting Jordan with his infectious enthusiasm and can-do attitude. And we just wrapped up recording our next episode with a very impressive software executive who has built multiple companies. I think you’ll enjoy this next one too. Stay tuned!