It’s exciting to market, because marketing brings money and new customers.
Not always. You have to understand who you are targeting before you go out and spend a dime on marketing. How do I know? I learned.
The great debate is, who is going to buy a Legacy Longboard? Who is the most likely to fork over between $250 and $300 to own a masterpiece with wheels?
In looking at the Facebook demographic, it’s the 18-24 year old males (75%) and the 18-24 year old females (25%). But just because they like the page, the idea, the look, doesn’t mean they are going to buy.
At this point, it’s not about selling the board itself. It can’t be. It’s about selling the experience and the feeling. It’s about selling in different ways, and not through retail stores.
I figured this out pretty quickly as I walked into numerous retail skate shops to ask some questions about their customers. It came down to several facts. Fact one is that the audience that comes into their stores are primarily beginners, who are looking for beginner gear that they still have faith in based on popular opinion and peer review. They know what they want.
The second fact is that they are young, don’t have a ton of money, and are willing to spend between $125 and $180 on the high end. This means that a retail shop wants to get their boards from suppliers who charge between $50 and $60 per complete board. Can I touch that price? Heck no. Not even close. Do I want to play in that space? Heck no.
So how do I sell these boards? I’m leaning to non-traditional placement in places such as bike shops, resort towns, corporate centers and beach cities, where people don’t balk about choice. They buy in to the culture, the feel and the sense of what they want to be.
In short, we need a “Schtick the stick” campaign to first create awareness of our boards, second create a sense of needing to belong to something bigger than them and third, wanting to ride a dang sweet board.
And who knows, maybe we’ll sell a board or two in the process.
Today’s overriding theme was expanding through partnerships and checking agreements already in place.
This morning started out with the need to follow up with my milling partner who has been pushing off the second batch of boards. They were supposed to be under way last week, but because of the issue with the wheel wells, it was pushed back.
The lesson for me here was that it’s critical to be crystal clear about the expectations you have about a job. In this case, I failed to tell him that if we hit day 2 of him waiting for a customer’s board to see exactly where it was hitting, that he should proceed with beginning the retrofit. We now sit three days behind schedule on the production of round 2 boards.
I entered negotiations with a friend and soon-to-be equity holder in my company. Equity? Yes, I know that having the equity discussion so early in the game may be premature, foolish and not needed. However, in this circumstance, it makes sense. It’s not a lot, but will fan the flame of a joint venture we are doing.
In short, a friend who has a screen printing and embroidery business wanted to do all my printing of shirts, hoodies, and all wearables. We agreed that she would do all the design, printing, packaging, shipping and return maintenance. There will be a 70/30 split, with me taking the minority stake. She knows the industry, has great strength in market research and a passion for doing it. I can’t argue with this.
Along with a majority of share in the clothing venture, I will give her a 5% equity stake in my umbrella company. Her share will be tied to specific responsibilities in the company and will fan the flame of continuing to push the products and services we offer. We have yet to formalize anything, and at this point, we are simply in discussions.
I continue work and communication with my friend and partner in Canada. It’s a great experience to be able to co-develop products with others. The interesting part of our business relationship is the fact that he is in Canada and I am in the United States. How are we proceeding? Trust, agreements and a push to bring a killer product to market. I find his thinking refreshing, his desire to bring a product to market that is needed and a passion for sharing cool ideas with the world. Thank you CH.
My reach extended to my investor friend today as I sought his guidance on my agreement with my screen printing friend. We have an appointment set for Friday, and I am extremely happy and glad to be able to get input from another experienced mind.
Our Brazilian connection continues to build interest, and is proceeding slowly. All in good time.
The last of our existing apparel line is on the website, and we are striving to fill the site with meaningful content. In the content world, I have continued our Facebook ad campaign for another three days to build up credibility and have a base from which to start marketing and advertising opportunities, but more importantly to begin building relatonships with our future customers.
Today was a mixture of being a dad and being a business owner. The challenge was to balance what needed to be done at work with what needed to be done in the home.
Despite the setbacks, I was able to verify my first order of wheels and bearings from a new relationship in California. The shipment arrived well, and they included a free set of wheels to test out on one of my boards.
My contacts in Brazil reached out to me via email, saying that their research was moving forward as they prepare to journey down there. On Facebook, the likes keep pouring in, with 90% of the poplulation on my page being from Brazil. I think I have discovered a niche and a country in which to launch, and the plans are in the works. Being that the Internet and this Blog get first page coverage on Google, I won’t put in too many details.
Today was a day of accountability with a soon to be partner on my clothing line. She has been hesitant to move forward with any more printing, but until today has not come out directly to say what is on her mind. We discussed the importance of having a contract in place, at minimum so that each party understands what their role is, what resources they need to bring to the table and expand, and how they should proceed with interacting with each other.
I spoke with my milling partner about creating wheel wells in the decks. Because the truck holes were not placed in the correct spot (we didn’t measure this somehow) on the deck, the wheels “bit” on the bottom of the board. Seems like an innocent enough problem, but without either moving the wheel base forward on the front or getting a wider truck, any deep carves result in wheel bite that sends the rider moving forward while their board is still on the ground behind them.
I spent 30 minutes in the wood shop going through various scenarious and iterations of how to sand out the wells. Through trial and error, we decided that hand-sanding the wells was the best option, versus cutting them out in a way that lacks predictability.
Today I also spoke with a potential photographer for our “modeling” shoots of existing clothing, and taking pictures of the boards to put on the website. I began adding products to the website, with the boards being added later this week.
I continue interactions with Facebook fans, trying to discover what they respond to. It’s time to up the ante with actual content, tips, tricks, trends and information to help people (in addition to selling products). I purchased a $50 Flip camera from a local classified ad to begin putting some kind of content on the site tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.
The biggest lesson for now is that when the honeymoon of an idea wears off, the true intent of the entrepreneur comes to the surface and is repeatedly tested. I remain true to my cause and my aim.
Oh yeah, I decided to let me existing graphics guy finish out his ideas of our first product to market other than the boards. Meanwhile, I asked my contact at 3DProtoprint to supply me with an engineer who could make the product and my project his main focus. It’s not about convenience, it’s about getting the job done and the product to failing iteration quicker.
Overwhelm and fatigue. That’s all I feel right now.
As the week ends, I’ve been thinking about this business so much that I need a detox. I’ve crossed all the T’s at least twice, the i’s have been dotted so many times that the pencil has gone through the desk, and I’m ready for a break!!!
Really though. There have been good points today. I finished the first storage rack for the boards so they won’t fall down the wall and onto the floor. I asked my production team to begin production of five more dark boards, as well as the prototypes for the 48″ and the 42″ models.
My Facebook traffic has exploded on our fan page. I started yesterday with 47 likes, and as of this writing, I have 391 likes. I really don’t understand where they are coming from, other than the $10 a day campaign to direct traffic to my sweepstakes to give away a board. Among all the strong points, I am seeking an understanding on how social media actually works for a business. One thing I know; no traffic, no eyes, no sales.
Today has also been about getting my products onto my website to capitalize on this FB traffic. For now, until I have better pictures, my graphics team suggested that I just use mockups for now to at least have SOMETHING on the site and available. And, as luck would have it, just as I have my spike on traffic my web guy overseas came down with a headache that put him out of work today. Oh well-I proceed.
I tried calling in to the state offices today to check on my sales and use tax exemption number, when I was informed that my company LLC organization is on hold because apparently I forgot to double check a big important part on the application. I have faxed in the info and we are hopefully good.
In closing, more rest is needed. I’m going to take the weekend, ride the boards with my kids, and take it easy. Yes, I deserve it.
It takes money to make money. It’s true.
I used to think that even with bootstrapping, I could just do things on hope and hard work with a good intention. The reality is, it takes some money to get started. There are programs to run, materials to buy (even making prototypes from scraps of something), services to use, gas to put in the car to get from place to place and so on.
So if you think you can start a business with nothing, think again. You have to have something to start with, then be smart about how you spend it. Sell something, work the restaurants at night for tips, do whatever you have to do have something to start with. Plus, having something helps others to see that you are serious about doing what you do.
Today I decided that I will focus on competing only with myself. Throughout my life, especially with business, I have always compared myself to other businesses, other people and other “positions” that others seemed to be in. But who really cares how I compare to them? They are where they are, I am where I am.
In this vein, I offer some advice to people starting a business. It all can be overwhelming, trying to wear multiple hats and do everything needed to start a company up. The key? Taking clear and consisten action every day. Take one step at a time.
For example, yesterday I reached burnout point around 3:00 in the afternoon. So much was going through my head and I took note of what I had accomplished to that point:
* Put trucks on the first production board
* Had a meeting with my Brazil connection-gave him boards to take down there
* Placed the first order for my trucks, bushings and kingpins
* Sent out applications to other suppliers
* Talked with a company in Las Vegas about custom wheel printing
* Finished installing the blog on the website, dialed in the homepage and contact form
Not a huge deal, right? Well, the difficulty was balancing at what point I should do each of these things, when I should travel and where, and what resources I had available to use now. I had responsibilities with my kids as their dad, took my phone to my wife just to show her I loved her and had demands from multiple areas.
So again, the key is picking the easiest things to tackle, accomplish the best work before 11:00 am, and taking clear and consistent actions. Just pick one thing, do it, dominate it, then move on.
It seems I learn something new every day, or have something strengthened that was weak. Today my lesson was about sharing the passion. As I mentioned, one of the things I did was had a conversation with a potential future business partner, who has strong ties to Brazil. As I explained my boards, I found myself getting into this mode of passion. I wasn’t just telling him about my board, my whole body was explaining my brand and why I felt so passionate about my boards.
After I got off the soapbox of raving about my boards, I realized something. I really do have a passion for what I am doing. It’s not about the pieces of wood we glue together. It’s about the lifestyle people live when they ride a Legacy Longboard.
I realized that in business, and especially when selling a product, it is critical to get people behind your vision for your product. And the only way to get them behind your vision is to share it with them. I thought about a couple of ways to share the vision:
1. Know what your product is. Not just what it’s made of, but what it will do for them
“The Legacy board will connect people back to being grounded and having fun”
2. Know why it is different than everyone eleses out there
“Our boards are vertically laminated to provide durability and a unique look”
3. Know how you want people to feel when they use your product
“We want people to feel a connection to their board before they even receive it”
4. Know where you fit into the mix
“My boards are designed for cruising and looking good”
Finally, today was about learning. If you don’t know something, learn it, become the expert at it, and be able to explain it better than someone else. People are always willing to teach if you ask…even if they are your “competition”.
Coolness. That’s what comes to you when you are cool to others.
Had a great conversation with a new friend from British Columbia, Canada. He reached out to me for mentorship on the development of a unique product that he’s been thining about, designing, and wanting to bring to market. I let him know that I was also developing the same type of product, and that we should team up to bring it to the world. Three days later, we are actively pursuing development and prototyping.
Truth be told, business is all about relationships. Yeah, everyone says it but what does it really mean? It means seeking the interests of other people first. I had a mentor call me on the carpet one time. He says, “Jon, you are cocky.” Woah. Didn’t see that coming. What he followed up with was, “If you want something, find someone who needs it more than you do, then give it to them. In the process you will also get what you want.” Truth. Truth.
I tested a new deck spray that was sent to me from a California company. It looks great, works great, and gave me a huge headache (that whole “keep in a well ventilated area..I’ll pay attention more next time).
One lesson I took from today was asking questions before making assumptions. Some of my boards that came from the mill were rough around the edges. I took them back to my milling partner and told him they felt rough. He brushed it off as nothing and proceeded to lead me to the shop. He took a piece of paper, rubbed it along the edge, then told me the real problem.
Reality? Not a problem. It was simple overspray that needed to be “sanded” down with a piece of blank paper. Lesson learned. The experts are the experts. Don’t try to think you know more than them about anything. Learn from them, be humble and take direction in unfamilir territory.
Lesson two: be flexible with who and when you meet. I had an appointment with a guy who has unique longboard idea that nobody else is manufacturing. He was selling the business on a local classified ad board for $5000. I saw two things. One, his company was not worth $5000. After talking with him about his motivations, why he was selling the “business” and what he wanted, I discovered the second thing.
He wanted to stay in the business but doesn’t have the bandwidth to manufacture, market and sell them. I immediately saw that I could add value to his business and satisfy a market desire at a low price point. We are meeting this week to discuss a JV. Keep your eyes open. Things become more clear when you do.
Much ado about nothing. Unless it’s something.
Today was spent doing paperwork, forming the LLC, getting the FEIN, all the boring monotaneous junk that has to be done. I fought not doing it. Why? Most investors and incubators don’t consisder a company a real company until they hit $200K in revenue, or at least make their first $1.00. So have I hit $200K? No. But I have hit my first board sale.
The website shell is up at www.legacylongboarding.com. The focus for today was supposed to be content, but I just didn’t feel like creating content. It’s going to have to be one step at a time. I think the first thing I’ll tackle is a simply video on the site explaining our product.
I reached out again to the director/founder of the incubator I am trying to get into. I sent him an email two days ago, and I haven’t heard from him. My MO now is persistence in getting in touch with him to discuss my entrance. As the saying goes, persistance prevails when all else fails.
My manufacturing partner confirmed that the first 10 boards will be completed tomorrow morning. This is good, considering that I have arranged to have a board shipped both to Hawaii and Brazil. Brazil because of the large market and expendable income (and the connection to an influential distributor and marketer there), and Hawaii because I have a distant relative who lives right next to the beach, the BYU Hawaii campus and other places where the board could get some real feedback.
I’ve decided that the next manufacturing step is to try a second, thinner board that has more flex and “drop” to it when the rider is on. Why this direction? I had a phone call with an experienced boarder in the industry, and he asked me why my board was different. The first question he asksed was “Does it have more flex than other boards?” Small mention, but potential big ramifications.
I just need to get the boards into my hands, into the hands of others who can help me distribute this and those who can help me spread the word.
We set the date for our photo session with our “models”. We’ll see how it goes.
Time to go spend time with my family.
It’s not often I post these kinds of things, but you signed on to get the real scoop on being a business owner. The reality is, right now I am feeling a little like a man standing in the middle of a field at night, wondering why he is there.
Last night I had a discussion with my wife about me being an entrepreneur. We talked at length about how “things used to be” when we were first married. She expressed her desire to support me in my ventures, but that she also did not feel like she could give me a full hearted support. She wants to trust that this business can be built, but in her words, “she doesn’t want her expectation to be disappointed again.” Yes, sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t.
My wife is a good woman, but she has never really understood entrepreneurial ventures, specifically mine, why I engage in them and what keeps me going. Working a 9-to-5 would fit her better. We talked at length about what she is doing in being a substitute teacher. The truth? Giving me the ability to focus on building the company.
With that said, I’m feeling alone. Do I make the effort to convince her I can do it again? Nope. Can I convince her with anything else than cold hard cash? Nope. She knows it. I know it. We know it. Onward we go.
Today I met with an investor at breakfast-the same one who skipped out last time because he overslept. Great meeting. We talked about my real position, he gave me practical advice on joining an incubator and using lean startup principles, and he wouldn’t give me money. He flat out said no when I asked him.
His reasoning was that there are incubators out there whose sole focus is to build companies to the $200K mark and set them free to other investors. This guy felt I best fit in that boat.
He made a lot of great points:
* Proof of concept by selling the product
* Picking somewhere outside of Utah
* Seek a co-founder…investors invest in pairs
* See if a local competitor with large distribution wants to team up
* Chooseing the right people to sell to
* Capture leads on my site, Facebook and other pages…market to them later
* Get into an incubator program to push myself to the quickest path to $200K
* Validate everything I am doing
One of my focuses after leaving that meeting was to make contact with a potential partner. The reasoning in the investors mind, is that he and other investors invest in “pairs”; yes, pairs. Pairs, so that if one gets hit by a bus, the other survives the ordeal and the business continutes. I chose to email the CEO and founder of a competitor just to see what he would say. Time will tell.
I worked closely with the owner of the screen printing shop to figure out how we would print the boards on the screen setup. Unbenounced to the other, we had both researched independently online for answers last night and came to the table with several possibilities. After some trial and error, we figured out a way to make a temporary stop for the bottom of the board, an outline for the side stopping points, and how much pressure to put on the screen. We created a mini assembly line and we were off.
Five minutes later, I had 10 longboards ready to be returned to the miller.
To sum up, I am simply continuing to make slow and simple progress. Step by step has me consumed. I want to be smart about this business. I plan to be in an incubator program to keep me accountable and learn how to grow a very viable product and company. Hypothetically, if I can master the concept, I can master any business with success.
Here’s to other business warriors.
First, one note from yesterday. I journeyed to North Salt Lake (after arriving promptly in the wrong place for our meeting) to visit with Rob Daugherty of “The Vest Guy”. The reason for my visit was to begin planning out a line of travelbags for the skateboarding industry. Rob manufactures all kinds of vests for police, fire, training, etc., all of which are built from heavy duty canvas materials.
We discussed his process, his operation and general costs. I wanted to gauge how much materials were going to be to create a decent bag. My questions discovered that he was very flexible in how we proceeded. He specifically mentioned that making prototypes would be slightly more expensive (due to the nature of experimenting) and that I would most likely take a prototype home and have some changes I wanted to make.
The cost will be around $75 each, and I expressed my desire to make the perfect prototype first, put it up on a website and try to sell one or several first. I decided in that meeting to design one prototype and get feedback from others who travel with their boards to see what they would like, then making a JIT scenario for production. Rob was open to a no-minimum-order setup. Perfect.
Today was a lot of firsts. We had our first production of 10 boards partially completed and delivered to the screen printer who will print the logos (as of now, we have no idea how to even screen print the boards, but will experiment with placements next week). We then deliver the boards back to the miller to complete two additional coats of exterior grade polyurethane coating and the final finishes.
We also completed the first line of our shirts and sweatshirts, deciding to price the shirts at $15 and the hoddies at $25. I stayed past 6:00 tonight (despite needing to get home to my family) so we could finish the first runs and make sure the screen printer and I agreed on the logo placement.
This is a great time to bring up the fact that the screen printer is literally down 13 stairs from my office. We are splitting the profits on the clothing line and her contribution to the venture was to purchase and print/embroider the first run of our clothing line. There are plans to put in our own branded product tags down the line.
Finally, I just felt like I needed to secure a replacement/backup wood worker who understands how to make skateboards. I found a card I picked up from some networking meeting along the way and gave him a call. He is motivated for the work, has 50 years experience, and is open to negotiating on production costs. He almost got me to reveal how much my current board guy is charging, but I kindly explained that this was a business transaction and that I would like him to come up with his own price for our work together (price per finished board).
One of the major reasons for seeking a “backup” is that one, if production get’s anywhere near what I anticipate, one man can’t handle all the orders. Second, if anything happens to the first guy, I can’t have production interrupted-someone needs to be already warmed up and ready to produce on a larger scale and to pick up immediately on the orders. Finally, I waited around all day today for the first guy to bring the boards, and when they did arrive, they were only half way sprayed. Being nearly five hours behind promised time can make a huge difference later.
My next focus is now getting the website up (for customers, potential sponsors, etc.) by early next week, selling tee shirts and sweatshirts, and selling at least three boards over the next four days.
There is too much to catch up on.
I have designed the first electronic iteration of the Legacy Light; an interchangeable system for longboarding at night. A freind of mine from a previous job happened to know how to graphically design products and agreed to do jobs for “beer money”. There are too many details to fill in (my hosting account was suspended for non-payment for the last two weeks…I just barely have enough now to get it active again. So I’ll just start from now.
The first five boards that I ordered with the mill arrive tomorrow at the screen printers. He milled 10 boards instead, so we will screen print each of them. The challenge is that the screen printer does not have a jig for, nor has she figured out how to screen print the boards. Our challenge tomorrow is to figure out how to do it.
In other developments, I have begun the process for three other products that will be launched this year. I have planned on launching them, but need to start them now so that the idea has been planted and sprouting by the time launching is come. There is a difference between launching the idea and implementing. Right now, this is about getting to action the quickest. I’ll write more about the products as we develop them (with modern technology, even though nobody is reading this blog right now, it is still live and searchable…don’t want to take any chances until IP is locked up).
I have put together a small business proposal for an investor who has expressed interest in our first product. I was supposed to meet with him this mornning. After waiting for 35 minutes, I texted him…no response. I waited an additional 15 minutes, no response. Forty five minutes later, he sends me a text, “Shit. I totally overslept.” Yep, you did, and you totally missed our appointment. No worries. I persisted, and we meet on Monday.
To begin filling the bank account to actually live while I launch this company, I started as a substitute teacher today. Yep, seventh and eighth grade of all things. Interesting challenge and a flashback to yesteryear, but all towards the goal of “stability” as I build the company.
I’ve been studying up on Daymond John, the founder of the former brand FUBU. Fascinating…the guy had hustle and did lots of right things amongst the challenges. One of them was holding down a full time job as a server at Red Lobster while building the company one sale at a time, one show at a time, one van full of goods at a time. Hustle. Love it. I am determined to have more hustle and find success where I can.
In other news, I’ve been playing around with the purposes behind Legacy Longboarding Co. and Thrasht Industries. The Legacy is about the boards and the culture. Thrasht Industries is more about the wild side; Take Higher Risks And Seek Happy Times. The Legacy concept is still in the works. I just felt like it was important to have a cause and purpose behind the companies, and what easier way is there than to create an acronym?
After much deliberation, the logos for Legacy and Thrasht are complete…for now. The website is being worked on as I write. This is important, as my sister has volunteered to be the head of the planning committee for our launch party being held in April. As part of my assignments, I was to call potential sponsors for the event, particularly helmet sponsors. I thought, no problem, I can secure some helmets for free. Not so easy.
I began by researching all the major helmet companies in the industry. I began my search in an industry magazine, Concrete Wave (in British Columbia). I found the contact information, checked out their sites, then organized them into those I wanted to work with. I called their sales reps, their VPs, their founders, and all wanted to see my website, how long I’ve been around, etc. One from New York was particularly grough, and said straight out, “You are premature with asking for free helmets.” He has since come back and softened a bit, probably after I asked him point blank, “What do you want to achieve?” He of course said, “To become the best and most widely used helmet in the skating industry.” “Great”, I told him, “I want to use the best helmets and promote them.” Nuff said. I still don’t have them yet, but I will.
I’ve been contemplating how I should approach my product development. Do I develop them all by myself? Do I involve other people? If so, who do I involve? To date, I have developed relationships with a guy who owns a rapid prototyping company, a patent attorney who has agreed to write my patent in exchange for money off the back end, an investor who is mentoring me, a guy who has deep connections to the manufacturing industries in China and Mexico (who has also taken products to market), an inventor (“Apple Core”) who knows about supply chains, and many others who are key to getting products to market.
In each case, I am constantly picking their brains with questions to find out how to do things.
More to report later, it’s time to spend Valentines night with my wife.