Six strategies for partnering with big brands

Small business access to the big guys

A must-follow checklist for small businesses looking to connect with powerhouse companies like Wal-Mart.

Tom Szaky didn’t even try to get his product–a worm excrement fertilizer packed in a recycled bottle–into small retailers when he started TerraCycle six years ago. Instead, he reached as high as he could: Wal-Mart. “If I want to be big and do it quickly, the best way … is to work with the world’s biggest companies,” he says. “They can accelerate your cycle much more quickly than any other company can.”

The Trenton, N.J.-based company’s first big partnership with Wal-Mart in Canada was just the start of what has become a $14 million business. TerraCycle now gathers unrecyclable trash and converts it into products and packaging for such big brands as Kraft, Pepsi and Mars. Last year, corporate partners spent $45 million on TerraCycle-related marketing–far more than Szaky could have ever done alone.

But breaking in with big companies is no easy feat. For Szaky, it took lots of research, persistence and trial and error. “The biggest mistake small companies make is they don’t do enough homework,” says Brant Slade, co-author of Think BIG!: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Partnering With Large Companies (Course Technology PTR, 2009). “They think … more from the small business point of view as opposed to thinking from the large business point of view.”

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