To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact


Culture & Growth Case Study: Fellow

Sara Blakely

Lesson time 13:34 min

Sara sits down with Jake Miller, the founder of Fellow Products, a high-end coffee gear company, to discuss the importance of developing a positive company culture and scaling mindfully, especially when it comes to hiring.

Sara Blakely
Teaches Self-Made Entrepreneurship
Spanx founder Sara Blakely teaches you bootstrapping tactics and her approach to inventing, selling, and marketing products that consumers love.


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Hi, Sarah. I am Jake. I'm the founder of Fellow, and we make beautifully functional products to help people brew great coffee at home. I started this company six years ago out of the D School at Stanford. So I was a graduate student at the time. Went back to grad school because I knew that I wanted to start my own company. And the second year, fall semester, took a class called Launchpad, and went from idea to product in 12 weeks. I graduated, and then said, do I get a job or do I pursue the dream? Said no to the full-time job. Took our first product, put it up on Kickstarter, and we raised $200,000 in the first 30 days. - Wow. JAKE MILLER: Yeah. I was on top of the world. I thought I had this thing figured out. They don't tell you that it took 18 months to deliver the product and $300,000. - Are you talking about the manufacturer? JAKE MILLER: Yeah. I had never built products before. As you know through Spanx, just the manufacture and production-- it's a nightmare. - It's really a big piece of the puzzle, isn't it? JAKE MILLER: Yeah. SARAH: Yeah. - So it took 18 months to figure that out. Thankfully, we were able to raise a little seed money, given the success of the Kickstarter campaign. And then we just kept building. 12 months in, I hired my first employee. Fast-forward six years, we're now a team of 23. We've got 15 products. We're sold on our website. We're sold in specialty retailers like Crate and Barrel, thousands of cafes around the world. - Congrats. - And then we just opened a retail store in San Francisco about a year ago. So customers can actually come in real life to try our products and learn with us. - Nice. And so is this the product line? JAKE MILLER: It is. SARAH: This is sort of what started it all? JAKE MILLER: This is. So this is a pour-over coffee set. SARAH: OK. JAKE MILLER: So this is an electric, variable-temp, PID-controlled kettle. - So what does that mean? - So this kettle will heat water to 202 degrees and hold that temperature perfectly for an hour. And every function is intentional. So the handle actually has a steel slug in it so it's a weighted handle. It moves the center of mass closer to your hand, so it feels really good when you pour. Precision spout, so if you want to have total control over the flow rate. Plug it in, press a button. It looks beautiful on the countertop. So it's sold at New York MoMa and at the hipster coffee shop on your corner. I'm incredibly proud of what we've accomplished, and optimistic-- - You should be. - --about where-- thank you. - You should be. - Thank you. But realize that we're in the second inning of a nine-inning game, and there are some real challenges ahead of us. And given what you've built at Spanx, I would just love your thoughts on a couple of broad buckets. SARAH: Sure. JAKE MILLER: The first is around culture. When we were five people in a tiny ro...

About the Instructor

With little more than an idea and a drive to find her way, Sara Blakely went from selling fax machines door-to-door to becoming the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire in 2012. Now the inventor, entrepreneur, and founder of Spanx teaches you to open doors and close deals. Learn Sara’s customer-first approach and her tactics for prototyping, branding and building awareness, and bootstrapping your way to success.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Woooow!!!!! I have no words! Thanks Sarah you are such an inspiration! Thanks, Thanks, Thanks.. wanna grow up and be just like you.

Very encouraging class with hands-on approach techniques and great case studies. Thanks Sarah for being so personable.

She may not realize it, but everything she talked about is part of the Lean Thinking philosophy. I applaud her tenacity and drive!

Make me become more thoughtful about the entrepreneurship adventure ahead


Nhi N.

She's kinda brave to talk about the "hire slow fire fast" on a public platform like this. As an employee and several month ago, if I heard my boss said this I would be freaked out, but not now. I kinda understand how her employees feel, especially the ones she hired. They must be very sure that they match perfectly with the culture and be confident in any uncertainty

A fellow student

This founder was so switched on, such insightful questions. Favorite case study by far

Banhid B.

Such a positive and engaging conversation. And as usual, an absolute goldmine of advices!

Lorena L.

This talks are amazing, you can learn even more and in a different way. I love it

Hannan H.

"The day you lose the autenticity is the day you lose your customer"... Great interview, great case study, loved it! Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information Sara.

James D.

A genuine and free flowing discussion - perfect case study. The guy seemed genuinely excited about some of the ideas emerging which was kind of funny too, looked like he wanted to run back to the office to get started.

A fellow student

1. Create a process for what has been working and add it into the employee onboarding process; 2. Always start with WHY - Onboard employees slowly and steadily; 3. Hire slow, fire fast (Sarah's magic number is 1~2 million dollars per new employee); 4. How to handle growth in new market segment: create a sub-brand to tailor to the new segment's need, it can be done internally within the same team of the core product, and can also be done with a new team dedicated to the sub-brand; 5. Start small, think big, scale fast; 6. Set ambitious goals, but be VERY clear on how you'll get there; 7. Don't focus on growth only for the sake of growth. Remember your WHY.

Alexa P.

Sarah’s teachings are incredible! I can relate to what she’s teaching as I feel that she’s actually present and true to life. Thanks for the great tips and lessons Sara!

John D.

Sara is conceptually advanced compared to many instructors on MasterClass. Sara’s tips at the end of each lesson is exactly in line with this point.

Nicole B.

This was my favorite lesson thus far-took so many notes that I’ll carry to my team and culture building