Kevin Lang’s path to starting and growing a multimillion-dollar business is rather easy to explain. He started with a simple business concept, in capitalizing on a customer need. He followed that with a straightforward product, in personalizing tumblers, water bottles, mugs and other drinkware with laser-engraving machines.
“We saw the idea (of laser engraving) was getting really popular,” Lang says. “We wanted to find something on the cheaper end, but could still keep beverages cold or hot for extended periods of time.”
The answer? Sarasota-based Cru Cups. The company, which Lang founded in 2018, is an e-commerce business, both with its own site, crucups.com, and online stores on Amazon and Etsy. The personalization choices and cup options vary, from 12-ounce wine tumblers to 24-ounce shaker bottles. Some of the more popular personalization options include a person’s initials and sayings such as “real housewives of” and enter the city.
Now four years into running Cru Cups, Lang, asked what he does during a typical day, responds like most other startup leaders: emails, customer service, helping out with engraving or processing or wherever else he’s needed at the four-employee company.
Lang answers that question as his mentor, Manastoa Score counselor Jon Stuart sits next to him, nodding in agreement. Lang reached out to Score, which utilizes retired executives to provide free mentoring services to small businesses and entrepreneurs, for a mentor right before the pandemic. Stuart has since become a trusted mentor.
While Stuart agrees, he adds Lang is nearly at the point “where we have to break him out of the warehouse-office situation where he is, so we can introduce him to other people in Sarasota-Manatee who can help him grow. He’s reached the stage where he’s right at a breaking point where he becomes a bigger business than he anticipated and it’s growing faster than he anticipated.”
“It can be very hard for a small company to do this,” Stuart adds, “but we want to help him think strategically, rather than ‘I have to get this out today.’”
While Lang appreciates Stuart’s counsel in the work on the business, not in the business conundrum, he says his mentor has helped him in myriad other ways, too. “I’ve asked him, how do you stay so positive and motivated all the time?” recalls Lang. “He says it’s all about the people. Building relationships will not only help you grow the business but will help you personally as well.”
City of residence: Sarasota
Engaged and expecting daughter in November
Iowa State, bachelor's degree in finance
What community group or organization are you most involved with?
FUNducation & Financial Access Federal Credit Union
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid?
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Or the weirdest task you've ever been assigned?
In high school I had a gym membership at a small 24-hour fitness location. One day the owner asked me if I could put things back to where they belonged and clean up a bit. He offered me a free membership for doing this once to twice a week.
What's your top tip for being productive?
Write down seven things you need to complete every day in a journal of some sort. These have to be things that you don't already do on a consistent basis. Ever since I started doing this I've noticed I get a lot more accomplished.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?
What's your favorite off-hours activity?
Watching or playing soccer
What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it?
Buying my mom a house. Not having enough disposal cash on hand yet.
What's your favorite podcast?
Earn Your Leisure
At what percentage on your phone do you start to get Low Battery Anxiety?
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone?
Gmail, Youtube/Youtube Music, Etsy
What books are you reading now? The Expectant Father
What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired?
Hip-hop (Drake) and AfroBeat (Burna Boy)
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Where is your happy place?
Describe yourself in three words:
Respectful, ambitious, humble
Who is your mentor for your career and why?
Jon Stuart, I reached out to Score about three years ago and he's been one of my mentors ever since.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor?
That it is all about the people. Jon has always pushed me to become more involved in the community. Because of Jon, I was able to share my experience with Kim Richmond's students during a panel discussion they held about entrepreneurship. I have been a part of three of these panel discussions thus far. I was asked once to be a part of ABC’s Empowering Voices segment which Sherod Haliburton, from FAFCU, also happened to be a part of. I now sit on his Supervisory Committee. He's also the one that connected me with Neirda Thompson-Pemberton, the founder and CEO of FUNducation. I now volunteer at some of the events she hosts that are focused on teaching kids about S.T.E.A.M. Him setting the selfless example in helping me and so many others is exactly what I want to be able to do one day. It’s something we should all be doing to help our communities advance.