HomeAwardsInnovator of the Year - Mike Beckham

Innovator of the Year – Mike Beckham

Mike Beckham co-founded Simple Modern, the largest supplier of hydration products to Amazon and Target, which will see $100 million in revenue this year. In doing so, he created a corporate culture that makes no apologies for putting generosity above profits. And if that wasn’t enough, he recently invested millions to open a manufacturing plant in Oklahoma City – solving his own supply chain issues while also helping to move more manufacturing back into the region.

In 2015, Mike Beckham and a couple of his buddies wanted to start a side business to see if they could have a little success selling products online. “We wanted to sell online and have a commitment to generosity,” he said. “And that was about it.”

They weren’t even sure what they wanted to sell.

“We started by looking at products – and some of them would have been terrible ideas,” he said. “Pet gates, compost bins – eventually we liked the idea of something we could make out of stainless steel because that’s hard to screw up.”

They landed on water bottles. And Simple Modern was born.

“We sold our first drinkware in March 2016,” he said. “And we had almost immediate success there. It just started a period for us where we would launch a product, (and) it would be successful. We’d put all that money back in to buy more product.

“We were 100 percent bootstrapped. We had a couple hundred thousand of my money, and we didn’t raise outside capital. We had to be very creative, and I have this theory that one of the benefits of scarcity is that it helps make you more focused.”

Simple Modern certainly has been focused. Fast forward just seven years: The company will hit $100 million in revenue this year, and Beckham projects growing revenue by 60-80 percent next year alone. They sold 6.5 million hydration products last year, and the company is on track to about double those sales this year to at least 12 million. Simple Modern is now the largest supplier of hydration products to both Target and Amazon, and its products are growing at a more than 100 percent rate with Walmart after launching with them earlier this year.

“More is happening in a day now than would happen in a month in the beginning,” Beckham said.

And surpassing the $100 million mark in revenue in seven years without outside capital underlines the skyrocketing, organic growth.

“It was a huge milestone to get there,” he said. “It’s almost like a unicorn – in how rare it is getting to the scale we are at as fast as we have without outside capital. It’s very, very rare.”

Giving mindset
Not having any outside capital has also allowed Beckham to grow the company exactly how he wants – which is one focused on generosity.

First, while Beckham owns more of Simple Modern than anyone else – 45 percent – he is one of 16 owners of the company who are also employees.

“We view Simple Modern through a stewardship lens,” Beckham said. “The company is not mine, even if on paper I’m the biggest owner. This mindset permeates the entire organization, helps us think long term and hopefully be more selfless.”

Beckham intends on being pretty selfless himself. He said he is committed to giving away 98-99 percent of all earnings he personally receives from Simple Modern. Before entering the business world, but after graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in finance, Beckham was the director of a campus-based Christian ministry, Cru, for eight years. He said this career in full-time ministry laid the foundation for how he views wealth and the importance of stewardship.

“Functionally, the plan is for it to all go away,” he said. “It’s a ridiculous number that I couldn’t spend in 100 lifetimes. And none of this money will bring me joy and fulfillment.”

It’s this intentionality and giving mindset that he used to build the culture at Simple Modern. Each year, the company donates at least 10 percent of annual profits to charities, with 70 percent of those donations going to nonprofits focused on education, clean water supply, human trafficking and homelessness. The remaining 30 percent is divided among every employee — about $4,000 each — to give to the charity of their choice. In 2022 alone, Simple Modern will give more than $1 million to 45 different nonprofits in Oklahoma and around the world.

“The amount of money that the company is now worth is a really daunting challenge,” Beckham said. “There is no way I can be as good a steward on my own as I can be with a group of people with the same commitment as me.”

The culture extends to everyday business interactions as well. Recently, when meeting with a new Amazon Marketplace representative, the Simple Modern team could tell the woman was distracted. She was from Ukraine, and her family was still in the country. And the meeting coincided with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“They were there for her as a person and seeing how they could help her,” he said. “She started to organize a relief effort, and they worked to get her a contact at the United Nations that could help her and then donated to her fund.
“You don’t do those types of things because you have some hidden motive to sell more stuff, you do those kinds of things to help people and because it’s the right way to treat people. When people don’t treat you in a transactional way, it stands out.”

Manufacturing in Oklahoma
Simple Modern has manufactured all its products overseas, but the company recently announced plans – and secured a five-year lease on a 175,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oklahoma City – to invest $4-5 million to start manufacturing drinkware in Oklahoma City.

The company was slated to begin production in Oklahoma City in July 2022, and will hold a grand opening in September, with the goal of producing one million Simple Modern products in Oklahoma City in one year.

“I spent a lot of time in China and in factories,” he said. “And my sense was this is not rocket science; we can do this in America. The manufacturing sector has been hollowed out here. We have forgotten how to make things in this country.”

Beckham said that once the factory is manufacturing at capacity, he expects to make 1,000 products an hour with one to two people involved. He said he hopes to build the facility to employ 100-200 people making 30-40 million units a year.

“This was a rare situation where I could ask, ‘What is best for my community?’” he said. “’What is best for my company? Best of the customers? The partners?’ This new manufacturing facility was best for all of them. Everyone is going to have better outcomes because of this. It will be much better than to ship those things with the tariffs and shipping costs. I shipped 15 million pounds of air in the last year!

Not just culturally, but really financially, it could be a really great deal, as good or better-quality products to our customers at as good or better prices.”

Creating his company his way certainly left room for innovation at every turn, and Beckham said the company’s mission statement (“We exist to give generously.”) allows for the future of Simple Modern to be whatever it needs to be.

“We’ve really built the company around values, and our mission really makes us very product agnostic,” he said. “Our company values have nothing to do with water bottles. It just so happens that we sell water bottles.”

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