An interview with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program alumnus Hagan Walker, CEO and co-founder of Glo.
First things first – tell us briefly who you are and what you do.
Hi there! My name is Hagan Walker, CEO and co-founder of Glo. We make Glo Cubes, light-up drink cubes, and Glo Pals, light-up children’s sensory toys. What started as a classroom project at Mississippi State University has now turned into a full-time job for myself and [my] business partner, Anna, as well as our
Being college kids at the time, we started with the light-up drink cubes and had some early success. But about a year in, we received an email. A mom had found our light-up cubes at a local restaurant, took them home, and put them in the bath tub for her young son with autism. It was the first time he got in the bath in months without crying because the lights helped redivert his senses to something more positive.
We took that feedback and began working on the Glo Pals—which have propelled the company to new heights. We sold over 4 million products last year and you can find us in 1,500 stores around the world, including Nordstrom, Macy’s, and even SeaWorld.
How has your perspective on negotiations changed? I’m a huge fan of negotiating. We got where we are by being scrappy and by doing things a bit differently. You have to do that sometimes to survive. The [10,000 Small Businesses program] was so helpful to reinforce those thoughts. Just today, we needed a new forklift for our warehouse. I found a used one for $10,000, but ultimately purchased for $5,500. It’s important to identify values that make you relatable, to tell your story, and others naturally want to help.
How would you describe your negotiation style? I definitely try to approach from a collaborative negotiation style. In most cases, there’s a way to make an argument or appeal to someone where the outcome is better for all.
The interesting part of that process to me is doing research beforehand to find out what outcome is best for the other party and then to form a negotiation tactic that presents the offer in the best light possible from their perspective. It makes such a difference to understand the other party’s perspective, to relate, and to come up with a common goal—and when this negotiation works, it’s a wonderful feeling.
How do you stay motivated when faced with challenges and uncertainty resulting from Covid-19 and the economic fallout? My biggest motivation is my team. We have 30 employees that depend on us—many with families of their own. For Anna and [me], it was important simply to keep the ship pointed straight. We decided very early on that our primary goals were no job cuts or furloughs if we could avoid it. We took a gamble, diversified our supply chain early on, took out a loan to carry additional safety stock, and these things are what paid off in spades during the worst parts of the pandemic. It was one of those scenarios where you hunker down and do what you think is best for yourself and your team. Looking back, it just all seems like a blur, and we learned so much and have completely adjusted our methods of purchasing and shipping because of it.
What has been your biggest learning from the pandemic? The pandemic has been hard on everyone. I think it’s very important to realize that everyone is doing their best. Stay patient and be kind.
editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.