This particular episode is very special to me because Viv and Joe are both close friends of mine. We all went to Stanford together and majored in engineering. Viv and I studied electrical engineering while Joe focused on mechanical engineering and product design.
As you will discover in this podcast, when a power couple like Joe and Viv start a business, it’s destined to be successful. Follow their journey on how they started from nothing to creating Orbit Baby, one of the most successful high end baby stroller companies in the world.
You Will Learn
- Why did Joe and Viv decide to start a stroller company
- How to find factories overseas to manufacture your products
- What are the challenges of manufacturing your own products
- The easiest way to get your own stuff made if you don’t have a product design background
- What Viv and Joe would have done differently if they started over
- How Joe and Viv marketed their store early on
- What was their best marketing move early on
- How to get celebrities to endorse your product
- Why they decided to go wholesale instead of direct to consumer
- How to get stores to carry your products
- How to price goods for wholesale
- How to ensure that your retail stores present your products effectively
- How to market your wholesale business
Joe And Viv Recommend
Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.
Welcome to mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I have a very special husband and wife team as guests. So I met Joe Hei and Vivian Chiang at Stanford where we were in the same class. Now Joe studied mechanical engineering where as Vivian, I and I both studied electrical engineering, and in fact I have many fond memories of us working together on engineering projects when we used to live in the computer lab. Now what’s also cool about Joe and Viv is that they are a husband and wife team just like my wife and I, and I’m very proud to call these two my close friends.
Now anyways Joe and Viv have created in my opinion the greatest luxury store brand in the world in OrbitBaby.com and just personally I’ve used all the baby strollers and car seats for all of my kids and I can whole heartedly say that they are easily the most innovative and user-friendly children’s equipments sold in stores today. Now it’s a shame that it’s a podcast and I can’t really show you a visual of their products but I’ll be sure to link up their company in the show notes, but you know all I can say is that their strollers are very unique in their design in that the seats rotate to make loading and transporting your kids that much easier. So I’m really honored to have Joe and Viv here today to talk about their stroller company OrbitBaby.com. Welcome Joe and Viv, how are you today?
Joe: Great, thanks for having us
Steve: Yeah, so you know for all those who have never heard about your company, can you just give us a quick background story and basically tell us, how you came up with the idea and what were some of your motivations for starting it.
Joe: Yeah, it’s a great question and like he said you know we get asked that a lot so I’ll try to keep it short. Part of it and hopefully this is interesting to you and your audience. Part of it was just a real deep desire to understand a company I’ll admit that. It’s always been something I wanted to do, it’s kind of in the blood and for me my parents were entrepreneurs, so that was definitely a part of it but why baby products. I came out of a phase in my life where I was doing product design and other kinds of design consulting at a place called IDO, where we were doing it for obviously all other companies because it was a consulting firm and so another part of you was just thinking hey, why don’t we do this for ourselves, you know we were advising companies and designing products for them, and trying to make them great and it seemed like it would be a nice opportunity to do it for yourself.
And then specifically for baby products, I remember an incident I had where my sister came to visit us in the Bay area here and I picked her up from San Francisco international airport and had to install the car seat because she had a baby at the time, my nephew and I remember just being really hit by this feeling of like wow this thing is sort of creepy, crappy and pretty bad and that kind of lit a light bulb of hey maybe this is the thing to do it in and we get asked especially being in so in covariant and everything else, like you mentioned you guys are part of the double lees, you know, we always get asked like wow, that’s really unusual why physical products at all but also why baby strollers. And a lot of it had to do with the fact that it felt like the innovation level was really low, the quality and the design of the products weren’t great, so it felt like an opening that we could get into and then I’ll let Vivian speak for herself but it was also a great sort of point in our lives because she had just gotten out of business school and had a lot of new skills and had spent a period of time at Apple doing marketing and that’s something that we felt like Orbit Baby needed from the get go because we really wanted to build a brand along with the product.
Vivian: Yes, and like Joe said I had– we actually had looked at the high and baby stroller car seat market back even before I graduated from the Stanford business school. We did a research project kind of testing the price point of where a luxury or high end stroller and car seat traverses would look like and we pretty much found out that there was a market for that. That is why after taking a year of business school but instead of doing Orbit Baby right away I actually left apple just because I couldn’t turn down the opportunity of working in their consumer apps group.
So you know for me and building a brand from the ground up was just extraordinary opportunity and it such a big passion of mine that I really, really just wanted to do that and dive right in and just create something from scratch. You know when I see an Orbit Baby out on the street now, when I see the logo, when I see any type of marketing related to it, I know that you know back in 2004 there was nothing, and the fact that today you know we can see it in a magazine or online or just out down the street is very, very gratifying.
Steve: So did you both quit at the same time, I actually don’t even remember now or did you stagger it kind of?
Joe: It was staggered so I ended up quitting first and then Vivian was still working and so you know at some point we did both jump in, and so the family was all in at that point but we had a period of time where we were you know at least had one income in the family.
Steve: Okay, okay so in a way that probably made it little bit less scary in terms of money I guess.
Joe: Yeah I would agree on that first step, yeah.
Vivian: Yeah, and I’d just say before Orbit, we actually didn’t have kids so a lot of people ask us, how did you even start this without having kids. We– I was actually pregnant at our first stage shows but we didn’t have the added expense of having kids yet, but I just said we had eight nephews and he says you came into town to visit us so we did have experience on how difficult car seats were to use.
Steve: Now you know for our business, we import handkerchiefs and simple textiles from Asia, but I can’t even imagine putting together something as complicated as a stroller, so can you kind of just walk me through the design process and what it kind of takes to get something as complicated as a stroller manufactured overseas.
Joe: Yeah, it’s a great question. It takes a lot. The you know I think the design of a new product– you have to start with– we didn’t know what we were going end up with necessarily so we had a pretty open ended beginning part of the design process but as we got in to it and we realized there were certain key benefits that we really wanted to deliver through the product you know like you mentioned the installation and of the seat rotates. The thing started getting kind of complicated in terms of the mechanisms and the things that would allow those features to happen and we had a lot of stops and starts. I mean basically this whole industry is manufacturing basis over in Asia, so one part of that’s harder, that’s hard is there was a lot of trips back to Taiwan and China and satellite too in the beginning just to find a manufacturer leave alone to implement the product, and the only quick story I will tell about that is that we had originally engaged basically like a trading company to introduce us to you know I think at the time it was five or six factories in China that were already making baby products and long story short is the whole process framed out.
There is this trading company was based in Hong Kong and I think they just kind of went through the motions. They took us to a bunch of factories that were in hindsight clearly not appropriate because they were more manufacturing things of a lower quality, lower price frame. We actually went pretty far with one of these factories before ending up having to make a tough call to just pull the plug on the whole process which definitely, was definitively was not a comfortable thing to do when you had a start up that wasn’t making any money but it just– the fact it couldn’t handle the job. Like you said it was a complicated thing and they weren’t up to the task and it was a painful decision you have to make as a start up and the only thing that made it easier was the fact with themselves. After I mentioned it to them, it was really funny they said oh I’m so glad you said that because we were actually feeling like we were on a rehearse and so it kind of really vindicated the decision for me and then also we had to restart the process and the second restarting of the process it was partly a really kind of stupid thing of just doing a lot of Google searching but I was also leaning heavily on kind of family contacts that we had through Taiwan to vet various factories that I was finding as well.
Steve: So if we can just take a step back, let’s say one of the listeners wanted to manufacture something you know much simpler than a stroller but you know something that needed to be manufactured overseas, what would they need to do to actually hook up with the manufacturer like what’s the process involved?
Joe: I think yeah, you know it’s funny too Steve because the world is getting– I don’t think Orbit Baby you know it’s not that old of a company but the world is really shifting even as we speak I feel like. So the rules which I will describe briefly, you still can do, which was we essentially literally cold called factories and we said we want to come visit you and take– you know have a meeting both so that you can see our idea and see if it is something you would like to work on and so that we can evaluate you basically, your facilities and your capability, and that process requires– we had the advantage going into that on having experience in the product world so that processes require you to have somewhat the ability to evaluate the factory, their manufacturing shops, but also their engineering shops. I think that path is still viable.
I think that a new path that has cropped out that to be clear we didn’t use for Orbit Baby but I’m kind of fascinated by it is, there’s a lot more companies that are popping up that will kind of hand hold your way through the process and then in return they take a chunk of equity and so I guess it’s sort of like anything else in the world now, you know you can outsource the process to a certain extent but they have engineering staff, they can essentially loan out to you and they know about your factories already etcetera but you know since there’s no such thing as a free lunch in life, you do end up depending on the firm you hook up with and you do give up that chunk of equity and that’s something. It’s a compromise we didn’t have to make, but not everybody can dive in and you know do what we did if they’re just starting out.
Steve: So, when you were kind of looking for these manufacturers, did you already have some sort of blueprint in mind or was it just kind of rumble?
Joe: Of the product itself do you mean?
Steve: Yeah, yeah
Joe: Yeah, we actually had, we had basically the sort of the first love of our design already.
Steve: Oh, okay.
Joe: Yeah, which we had worked on before we you know went over to Asia and I actually think that is quite important. I think it would be very hard to have productive meetings if you were talking in general.
Steve: I see, so you had mechanical drawings and that’s, I actually don’t know what’s involved in making such a complicated product, but are we talking like mechanical drawings, and that sort of thing?
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Basically it was you know we threw around the terms CAD a lot computer and in design but there is this solid modeling programs, SolidWorks is one of them and there are these various kind of expensive pieces of software and you end up spending many, many hours grinding away, basically drawing up the parts and also making them all fit together and it’s actually sort of roughly an elegist to writing code I would call but it’s very visual and you have to piece it all together on the computer and then it’s yeah you end up going over the issue with all of that stuff.
Steve: Interesting. You know what’s really hilarious is that when it comes to like making a computer chip, that kind of comes easy to me because I’m used to all this stuff, but even making like a bar of metal would seem complicated to me.
Joe: Yeah, I wouldn’t advice for it Steve I’ll write back at you I won’t bother with the other one but I actually think they are very similar ideas you know just the different specifics.
Steve: Yeah, so okay so we have these product issues and just for the benefit of listeners who might want to do this, what are some of the gulches that you hit while you were just trying to manufacture and you know which you kind of done differently if you were to start all over?
Joe: All gosh, you know the list is maybe a long and illustrious arm. I think, well let’s go back to the beginning and where I told a little bit of the story of how we found our manufacturer. Wouldn’t it have been great not to have the hiccup in the beginning of having to switch factories? I think that it’s such a critical choice, and I think for other people just starting off with the product, you kind of, you kind of just want to get the manufacturing part of it over with and done so you can move on to all the other issues that you know Vivian can speak to better of volunteering with your sales and your marketing and getting your website up and all that stuff but the reality is just you know a factory really isn’t a place where your stuff gets made. It’s for a product, anything physical like we’re doing. It’s just, it’s maybe your most important business partner, it’s what I would encourage people to– the way they think about it.
It’s not a– yes they are a vendor, but I think it’s really, really arguably your most critical business partner and that comes through in so many different ways, you know and I think one of the things that I’m– I guess not that I’m bad, not that I do it differently, I do it the same way is we found a factory that was willing to essentially give us really good financial terms, in terms of you know when we would have to pay for the touring and when we would have to pay for our first purchase order of products you know they gave us 30 days and things like that. I mean that’s essentially a form of vendor financing and when you’re just starting out, you know that kind of service is so important. It can’t be treated as relationship of just– you’re going to you know pay some money and get some stuff.
I think in terms of stuff that maybe I actually think I don’t know if you would agree with this. I actually think we should have hired a few more people earlier in the process. I think one of the things that we were really proud of is being really cheap. I feel every start up has that, hopefully has that mentality to succeed, to survive really let’s say. So we didn’t hire people for a long time it felt like, and I actually think it is related to your question like getting physical products implemented, because we ended up spending you know just so much of our time and energy just on getting that first product done let’s call it that I think you know some of that stuff we maybe could have hired a more junior person to do some of the nitty gritty, because as founders you know, we really needed to I think start shifting our attention even earlier and put more energy into everything else it takes to enlarge the product and to run the business and that’s the part you really can’t replace at all.
Joe: So, that’s maybe one of them. I actually think it goes contrary to most people’s instincts you know.
Steve: Yeah, so would you say it’s pretty much required that you actually go over there and meet them face to face then and kind of establish a relationship that way?
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s absolutely required, yeah.
Steve: Okay, so let’s shift gears a little bit and talk more a little bit about the business side. So that’s probably Vivian’s domain so what was the kind of the business model and strategy and how did you guys kind of make some of your early sales?
Vivian: So in the beginning as Joe said, we were supper cheap. So we actually didn’t hire a lot of people in-house and we knew that we could never afford an agency to help us with our marketing. What we did do is we did– focused heavily on PR. So our strategy was to actually get the Orbit Baby in the hands of celebrities and we did hire somebody who could help us with that and surprisingly that actually relate to goals. So we didn’t pay the celebrities either, it was really just the price of the product. So for us that was really cheap because it was just the cost of the product, and then it kind of just snowballed after that. I feel like we got, you know we did things in a very professional and classy way with celebrities, so that probably helped a lot, but we just had a really compelling product that these celebrities just started raving about to their friends, and the next thing we knew, we just had a lot of the A list celebrities pushing around that product. So that was definitely a key part of our strategy and we really you know having been at Apple we looked at a lot of how they did things in terms of creating a premium looking feel of the product, and I think that’s a cut through. Our website and our collateral and really the way we run our business as well without stores and retailers across the country.
Steve: So, how does that work exactly like how do you get this in front of celebrities and how does this work. You just say hey, just to go over, do you want a stroller, we’ll send it to you? Is that how it works or how do you approach a celebrity?
Vivian: Yeah, I mean for the most part there is also you know we happen to had people who had relationships as well with celebrities, and so you know we were able to get into their hands on them through that.
Joe: Yeah, I think Steve in terms of maybe some lessons people can take. One of our earliest you know we keep joking about how we were really cheap. One of our earliest expenses was we did hire essentially I don’t know what to call it a publicist, a PR agent that we could afford basically, and I think that’s one of the moves that we felt really good about even though at the time it was you know just burning. Everything we did was just burning cash whether– I think that was really important. There is a kind of a whole background world of how these celebrities work and stuff and you know you kind of need somebody who is going to both just put in the time in the contact of the people but also hopefully have some pre-existing relationships like Vivian is saying with– because all the celebrities have their own publicists basically.
Steve: I see.
Joe: Yeah and so you kind of need to be able to get in touch with them and work with them you know they are people basically.
Vivian: Yeah, so it wasn’t like Joe and I called them up and say because just kind of a bore probably have said no thank you. So we relied on people who already had relationships with, not necessarily a celebrity but the celebrity’s publicists or agents.
Steve: I see, okay that makes sense. Okay, so what was the business model then exactly? So was it to sell on your own site, did you– were you a wholesaler like how did you guys come up with that strategy?
Vivian: Yeah, so initially we only sold predominantly through wholesale. We did have an ecommerce site that really that was there for spare parts and for accessories but we really didn’t push that as part of our business model. If you remember that was back in August of 2006 when we first launched. So at the time there wasn’t– ecommerce was not as prevalent as it is today, and we also just didn’t want to introduce channel conflict with our existing retailers. So we really built it up by going to specialty boutiques throughout the country. We were also weren’t targeting the big buck stores like Target or Wal-Mart either. So it was you know predominantly just a wholesale strategy from the beginning.
Steve: Okay, so how does that work exactly? So let’s say I want to get it into some boutique, do you just pack some strollers and just head on over the store?
Joe: It’s a great question, I think one of the reasons why we decided to do the business at all to be honest is because even though really it felt really intimidating because there is all these different accounts to your point I mean how are you going to pack up the stroller and go to a boutique in New York or whatever? What we realized about it is that we went to the trade show for this industry for research and what we realized about it is that you could basically reach all of the– let’s say a lot of the retailers that you would want to get into because they all went to this trade show.
And so it was, even though it sounds like a lot of scattered sales accounts essentially, it was really efficient for a young small company without a lot of resources because we were able to get, mix essentially I guess you’d call them sales leads, we brought our product talks to the trade show and they all came as well so it was very centralized and we met just you know a ton of people with the space of like three days and that’s how we kind of got our sales kicked off really. And I think for us that was really critical because we didn’t really want to go into an industry where it would require you know like Vivian said, we didn’t want to do a thing where you have to go only a few big accounts that have pre-existing relationships with them and etcetera. This was a really nice kind of very open environment where we could just show up at the trade show and all the accounts, if they found your product interesting, they would just come to us basically.
Vivian: Yeah and the great thing about the baby industry is that there is basically just– there used to be two shows but now there is just one show, so it’s pretty efficient. You go to the show, you meet all your key accounts, you meet other retailers and then if they love your product they’ll place an order. The challenging part though still is because they are scattered across the country, there is so lot of sales support you know going forward even after you make that first sale, you do still have to go and visit them and train the stores. We put in different mechanisms to try and facilitate that so we had– we created an orbit university which was a live streaming video of somebody teaching a sales associate products. They could chat in questions live; they could watch it later meaning it was an efficient way for us so that we didn’t have to fly out to say Minneapolis for one account. But also even though we did create leads and were able to make those initial sales pretty easily, the ongoing support though is a challenge because you know there are still accounts all over the country that you do have to go and visit.
Steve: So you went to these trade shows and then all these boutiques wanted to carry your products. How did the initial ordering work? Do they just order a whole bunch, or do they just get a couple and just to see if it sells, like how does that all work exactly?
Vivian: Yeah, so at our first show we actually created two types of packages. One was minimum opening order, so our philosophy was that if you just ordered one, that wasn’t enough. So we actually– it wasn’t like we were trying to be you know total hot balls about it, but kind of had to– you should, if you wanted to have skid in the game and if you really, really were dedicated to orbit Baby you kind of had to sign up to carry three of them. One for your floor and then one of each color on the back for your stock and that’s how we packaged it. And for some stores it was too much, they only wanted to try out one and they only had the funds to do one. And we kind of just start one may be if they– when it would be a good partners for business in the near term.
We also offered a volume package, so we I believe it was like around $5000, we would then also provide free shipping. So for a small store in Boston or New York that actually meant a lot for them and if they had a warehouse anywhere that they could stock you know six or seven Orbit strollers, then that made sense for them to save and you know the sophisticated ones would outrun the numbers and they would know that it makes sense for them to order on a volume basis. So those were the two packages we launched with, one was minimum order you know to get a lee way kind of and the second was volume special for the show and actually later on we still kept that special there because that was like a sweet spot that we thought was worth giving away free for that revenue.
Steve: Okay, so did you implement like minimum pricing, you know among your shops or?
Vivian: Yeah so, that was a good question. I mean we couldn’t really go in and say you have to sell it at $900, so that was the opening price paying for the three starter kit. So we can’t you know, I don’t think any manufacturer can like force a retailer to stock it at that price point, but if they did the math, they just didn’t make sense. It wasn’t worthwhile for them to discount and also because we run pretty lean. A lot of times they wouldn’t be able to order, or they would be on beat time, so they would rather just place it at full price and then get that sale at that price point and then discount it and then be out of stock and not have something to sell.
Steve: I see, so how does the whole merchandizing take place? So do you have a say in how they display your products, how they present your brand and that sort of thing, do you have a say in that?
Vivian: So we always try to invest a system as much as possible so we would send out small things that you know obvious things like postcards and brochures and sale sheets to help either one educate the staff or two have them as handouts for customers or consumers but what we also did was we created this point of purchase registry which was a credit share type of item that we designed in-house that was designed to minimize how much space it took up on the floor and that could show the car seat base in the store through rash anchors so as you know the car seat base goes into rash anchors and we basically try to simulate what it would act and behave like in actual car vehicle.
So we did that and as I mentioned before if they ordered it on price point, we would actually ship that for free. So they could buy it but we also knew that all of them didn’t have the funds to, and it was in our interest to have them presented in the way we rebranded them, very nice and clean manner and there is a clinic chair if you saw it, it’s very clean, it’s clear and it kinds of blends in with the store environment. So we ship that out for free if they did it a volume order. And it turns out a lot of the good retailers it would be harsh if we really didn’t cut some orbits. They actually all had that display.
Steve: Okay, yeah the reason why I was asking was because you know if you would have put your strollers side by side amongst a whole bunch of other high end strollers, it might blend in more but you know where your stroller really shines is when someone actually demonstrates that product and then you’re like wow this thing is amazing. So I was just curious if you had some guidelines for some of the little boutiques to really present your product in the best possible light because just displaying it side by side alongside other strollers might not be good enough to make sales.
Joe: Yeah, I agree and I think one of the hard lessons learned for us was just you know how everybody has sort of the perfect vision for how they want their products shown and demonstrated to a point, and that was a struggle for us all along you know we always struggled with how do we– and it wasn’t always the retailer’s fault I would argue you know we have limited resources and so we could only make so many displays, we could only train so many stores but that’s I think that’s one of the interesting challenges of doing any product business where you’re going to wholesale like we did is, how do you do that you know because I know in all the Apple stores in the world now have really sort of distorted how people think about it because those are they are vertically doing that right there. Their own stores they can control everything so everybody has this image of like oh that’s the way retail happens but the reality is it’s so hard to actually implement that.
Vivian: So we tried some other things as well for example we knew that if we sent out labels, cards that would educate a consumer on how the product works after the product was taken out of the box, it was highly unlikely that you know stores actually on the floor would remember to put those cards on. So what we did was at the factory, we started putting on these cards like turn the knob, turn star or twist this to fold and so it was really simple like three arm hot pink magenta tags that would (a) be able to help a store associate in the store better demonstrate the product and (b) the consumer you know if they saw a wholesale it would encourage them to turn the knob or twist the– twist script on the stroller frame. So we did things like that to kind of try and make it so there was some sort of consistency across the board on the product itself.
Steve: Okay, so you guys decided to go the wholesale out, did it ever cross your mind to just go the straight retail road and sell your own stuff?
Joe: I think one of the challenges, I’ll talk about the product aspect of it, you know we were– both the advice we were getting in doing you know talking to people and also our own instincts was this thing baby product and sort of very physical things the stroller, the car seat, a roll around. Everybody was telling us in this kind of you know matched our own intuition that was more challenging than normal to do it outside of a store environment let’s say, right. People were saying and I think it’s a little less true nowadays but still very true compared to say, I don’t know just buying a pen or something online.
People really want to feel the strollers and car seats etcetera, so we knew going in that physical store presence was going to be a really big deal and then at that point you know it basically brought down to, it wasn’t really going to be visible to– I mean we sort of fantasized about having our own pop up shops and things but we knew it wouldn’t be visible to achieve any scale trying to do it only through our own retail. So I think in a way the nature of the product almost ended up dictating the business model you know it was like we have to get it in the stores, we cannot have it being only in our own store, so then therefore we kind of hand to wholesale in a way.
Vivian: And just to add to that because baby products, a lot of new expecting parents will register for them. You know that was when you know that’s got a distinctly different product I’d say than say just like a pan or something but you know there were like two times in your life that you would actually register for something. One is when you get married and then two is when you have a baby and we knew that both of those scenarios people would walk into a store and go around and pick the stuff they want and register for it. So we just simply wouldn’t have the scale right to do that on a physical level in you know five metropolitan cities around the country let alone all the different states in the country.
Steve: Yeah, so I– so you’ve mentioned a number of things so far. You say. You’ve mentioned that you’ve gotten a PR person to contact celebrities, you went to these trade shows. Were there any other marketing avenues where you actually tried to push your business and get more exposure to your brand?
Joe: I mean, I think some of it just to give the– some of it is the obvious stuff, you know we really put effort and dollars actually on making sure that we launched with the pretty good website. When I mean good, I mean both in terms of its design and in terms of its functionality obviously. We’ve seen over the years, maybe it’s something with the baby industry I don’t know but you know some products will come out and even if the product is relatively promising, they launch a pretty hawky website and then it kind of ruins everything in a way I think. So it seems like an obvious thing these days but those are really big focus of ours as well.
Vivian: And one thing that we really knew we had a competitive advantage over other stroller manufacturers is that we actually have a lot of pans so he knows how many pans we actually have now I think there is ten now?
Joe: I think they are 14.
Vivian: Oh 14, I actually haven’t gone through or not even pending so we use that trend advantage and we have two real white papers right which is as you and I know like in the Dublin and the South west of the [Inaudible] [00:34:50] that’s very, very common. We basically generally did a content that we didn’t think a lot of other people would even bother to do. So we have white papers on why the harness should be where it starts for a short child in the car seat or on some other materials that we use like why our fabric is greener or more eco-friendly for your child and other ones. So we actually spend a lot of time creating a database and a library of materials to (a) promote our product and also just (b) to kind of educate newly expectant parents on what they should look for in a car seat.
Joe: And I think renown was the kind of the you know there was a higher brow end of that which is what Vivian is talking about and then there was this stuff that was just like sudden, you know almost gimmicky where we are, I remember our first trade show, we actually brought in a mini, a car on to the trade show floor so that we could show people the car seat and then that was so funny because you know in a trade show we have of a lot of car seats apparently we were the first company that ever tried to bring a car in, seems so obvious.
Vivian: Ever, ever in the industry of KPMA.
Joe: Right, I don’t know. It’s crazy right and I think I’ve mentioned this story because you know it’s in a way it’s an easy way to create a lot of attention for yourself, and the other thing that people didn’t realize is that it was so cheap because it was a rental car.
Vivian: It wasn’t the best $400 we spent and literally like Joe learned how to drive stake out of a weekend from one of our friends you know her and then we flew out to Atlanta on high ways like in a chase car behind them just to make sure that he didn’t stall and then we had to drive it into the trade show floor. You know we did stuff like lay down really nice hard wood floors that are for show, put up a lot of bright lights and stuff that seems obvious to this tape you know back in 2005 people were amazed, they were like your booth is so awesome and we hadn’t really– well we did the math and we actually really just didn’t spend that much money on it. We kept things really simple and clean and fresh.
Joe: And then one of the great things I wanted to mention was just that you know there is a bit of rackers in San Francisco that I’m sure you know Steve but you know this crazy race thing that happens and one of the things we did was just we just got, we got all you know not only the few employees we had but friends and family and everybody ended up with a stroller with no babies in there obviously. We just kind of, we walked bit a breakers you know all in all baby t-shirts all sort of there is this wall of strollers just to kind of create attention you know and so we would kind of pull stance like that basically.
Vivian: And I think I mean just because I know that this podcast is really intended for people to try and learn something if you know there will always be to start their company but one thing I would say to keep in mind is a lot of people think of marketing as straight to the consumer which is it’s true you know when you build a brand you’re just thinking of the end consumer, but we really thought of it as a holistic view. So what I mean by that was you know our marketing was just as strong to our customer as it was to our consumer and what I mean by that is that our customer was really our stores you know the boutiques across the country and a lot of people I think might not think of it that way. So they might just think well why spend so much money to just go to a trade show, you know get a ten bite hem brews just use the booth carpet, what’s the big deal, why would we ever bring in a car and I would say back links should run through everything you do all the touch points. So from the end consumer to your stores, you’re basically the avenues of how you sell the product because if you take pride in how you market to you know your wholesalers then they’ll do the same to their end consumer, and I think it really makes a difference in how you think about marketing in general as a company.
Steve: That’s very good advice and in fact you know I have a lot of students in the course that I teach on how to start a profitable online store. A lot of these people actually want to manufacture their own products and they’re actually not sure where to start. So would you guys happen to have any advice for these people who actually want to create their own stuff you know based on your experiences and based on some of the mistakes that you’ve made in the past?
Joe: Yeah, I think that again I think that a lot of it depends on their back ground. If they had a product or mechanical background like me hopefully they are, they have somewhat their own avenues to get going with that but there are some companies if I was to give them advice to look into this company called PCHInternational. I don’t mind giving them a quick clag just because they are pretty involved with simple projects for example at this point they give a lot of students internships and stuff but firms like them come like I was mentioning earlier. Their job is to you know, offer varying degrees of turnkey service to try and get your stuff built in China basically. So I think that there is– there are big firms and they are based in China but also a bit more just kind of more local smaller shops that are you know may be for engineers who have basically a consulting service, who can do a lot of the work for you notice you don’t even have to pay them but on the other hand, depending on how hungry they are, a lot of those shops would be willing to take either differed payment or a lot of times equity. Frankly I mean a lot of your students are probably looking to start something.
There is a great story of a different company in our same industry called Boon, who don’t do our kind of products, they do a lot of kind of like bags and you know smaller plastic things, but they had the same dilemma. They had a great– they worked eight hour cool modern designs, they didn’t know how to get them made. They hooked up with a kind of a consultancy essentially that was willing to work with them because they were a promising young outfit and you know and sort of wasn’t able to be flexible on the payment terms and stuff like that. And in the end I mean though you know launched a really big product line after that but I always say it’s this sort of you know entrepreneurship as you know on two stew there is chicken or the egg and it’s like how do you break that cycle of always turning answers into chicken and the egg.
Steve: Yeah, I’d actually say that was a really good answer. So the point of all that was I just wanted to emphasize that you really don’t need a mechanical or a product engineering background. You can always find someone to help you out in that department on what skills that you lack.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely I would agree with that.
Steve: So do you guys– this is the question I ask everyone. Do you guys have any business book that kind of has influenced you in any way on your path to entrepreneurship?
Joe: Well I’ll make a plug for personally for me I don’t know if you’d call it business put strictly but it’s an old leaver goodie you know Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win friends and Influence People’. It’s sort of a book everybody has heard of, but and especially in our generation very few people have read. I’m biased because you know my family is very involved with Dale Carnegie training and such but it really is a great– and the reason why I mean you know I broached writing with that book title is because so much of business is communication I would argue right. So it doesn’t matter if you’re double lee, ME or not doing a product at all let’s say you’re doing ecommerce or whatever. Business really is fundamentally communication. It is internal with your people, it’s external with your customers, you know tour vendors etcetera. So I think a lot of times you know people focus– there is a lot of just sort of business folks that are about you know the business aspects of it, but I think you know I would make a plug for books that are very focused on just human relations and communications.
Steve: That is certainly true in the online space at least with blogging. It’s all about establishing relationships and just helping each other.
Joe: There you go.
Steve: I can totally see that and I can totally see it applying to a product company, on ecommerce company as well, so yeah excellent advice. So I don’t want to take up too much of your time, we’ve already gone a little bit over so I just wanted to end by saying you know Joe and Viv if any of these listeners want to be able to be able to get hold of you where can they find you?
Joe: Well I know for me I have a really easy email address. It’s just firstname.lastname@example.org so yeah I’d like to hear from your listeners.
Steve: Thank you two for coming on the show, and I think this session was awesome.
Joe: Thanks so much for the opportunity Steve, it was really fun and I know even though we’re friends, it’s like a lot of stuff we don’t get to talk about and it’s funny. It’s like both Vivian and I are like, we feel like we have a million more things to say so I think you’ve created an awesome forum for people to both speak and listen.
Steve: You know I learned a bunch of things about your company that I actually did not know either. So that’s awesome. That’s all.
Steve: Yap, thanks a lot
Joe: Okay, thank you
Vivian: Thanks Steve.
Steve: What can I say about Joe and Viv. They are the ultimate power couple. The perfect juxtaposition if you will of product design and engineering talent. To mass produce any sort of physical product for sale is just truly inspiring and very difficult to do. Be sure to check out the show notes where you’ll find the sites and links mentioned in this episode and also if you have a minute it would really help if you could subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. Also don’t forget to enter my free contest where I’m giving away a lifetime membership to my profitable online store course and free consulting as well. For more information about this contest, go to mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast where we’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.