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A detailed account of a Fastlane process...


Still working in obscurity
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Speedway Pass
Jul 1, 2018
Hi everyone

This thread is long. Why? It is my first thread after introducing myself. Naturally, there's a lot to say to put things into perspective.

For those of you who don't want to read all I have divided the thread into sections. Feel free to jump to where you seem fit. In any case I am looking forward to your feedback.

I. What are my goals?
  • Yes, I want to be rich. One day. But I do not care for speedy cars (sorry gearheads) or a particularly luxurious life. I want to make a lot of money to have enough for living free, spontaneous, and to pass tons of it on to a wildlife protection project I have in mind. I'm not a frugalist, but given my age (I am almost 50 years old) things that seemed important in the past have lost their charms. Superficial desires have vanished.
  • I want to enjoy me journey, not only the result. If my desired result either won't happen or will take longer than projected I am still enjoying the ride.

II. Where do I come from?
  • A few years ago I realized that I need to be an entrepreneur. I always and actively avoided this life option, because my dad was a small business owner. Of course I was set to become his successor. But the business model and the way my dad ran his company was doomed. I saw this from an early age on and always phrased my opposition to this never-to-be-doubted succession to the throne. By age 18 I rebelled, went to the army to get away, and subsequently went to college and University to study chemistry. Why chemistry? I first hated it in High School, because I wasn't mature enough to grasp its charm. The older I got the more I fell in love with it. The core concepts. The order. The creativity that grows out of this order. I graduated with a PhD and wanted to become a professor one day.
  • Here started the part of the show I wasn't prepared for. Til then hard work had paid off for me. I come from a blue-collar family and our generation was the first up for higher education. I was hungry enough to be successful (failing would have meant to return to where I fled from). I could learn everything that was hard facts and equations and concepts. But no one prepared me for the unseen code. To move up the ranks at University I wasn't prepared for in terms of the unspoken language.
  • From my dad I had learned that sucking up in other people's asses is not where we feel at home. He taught me that one day hard work would stand for itself. I still believe in this, but hard work alone makes you survive, but not successful. My dad worked his a$$ off and died poor. No more debts, but not a dime in the bank either.
  • I loathed this sucking-up game and failed miserably trying to play it. I wasn't behaving rebelliously or "bad" in any sense. I just refused to go down on my knees to pay homage to the big shots. As a consequence I had to go. Where I stood on the career ladder this wasn't done the "normal" way of being fired. A case had to be constructed to prove that I wasn't scientifically and personally fit for professorship. I fought against the verdict for a year, trying my only weapon - good science - but this sword was not asked for in this battle. A committee decided on my fate. A committee of which only one guy was really interested in my case. The rest was either sleeping or waiting for (paid) dinner. I meant jack to them. My life meant nothing to them. My research that til then had defined me as a person was worthless to them. My first life crisis followed. I had not only lost my job, but my entire life plan went down the drain. I was so burnt that I decided to leave academia and switch to a large company. There, I naively thought, hard work would pay better dividends, since the market ruled companies.
  • I had another two year stint in the research department of a global player and was disappointed again. Work and results didn't count here either. Same story. Same script. This time I went out myself. I was close to 40. No wife. No kids. No real savings (I lived on temporary contracts for years, constantly interrupted by short periods of unemployment). I had no roots to a place why I moved to the region where I am still based (for a few more years).
  • To break with my past I became a High School teacher. Many of you may snort at this decision. But for me it was the right choice. In the country where I live (Switzerland) teachers are well-respected and well-paid. And... they are quite free in what they are doing. Currently, I am working a total of three days at school for 100% of the money leaving me with ample time to built my dream.

III. The dawn of entrepreneurship
  • Eventually I met my wife, self-employed, a foreigner herself (Austria), and we started thinking of our future together. Gradually it dawned on me that being a teacher for the rest of my professional "career" would kill me. Too redundant. Too boring. Too meaningless. My scientific career was pretty much over (I enjoy the odd publication in my field to kick a few guys' fat asses). Another scripted job was not an option. I am not made of that wood. This left me with entrepreneurship. I fought this reality for a while, since I didn't want to become like my father: badly tempered, hard-working, poor, i.e. poor.
  • One day my wife nagged me into helping her with her itching scalp. I did some research, looked into what's on the market (to be honest I was too lazy to get my a$$ moving and thought there might be something out there helping her). The more I looked the more I shook my head in disbelief. The cosmetics and beauty industry is full of products that contain questionable, outright bad, and unnecessary ingredients. I soon decided to build her a tonic from scratch. No me-too product (meant in the old sense before the #) like most big player products these days. I wanted to build something ingenious and unique. The best and only the best for my loving wife. I ordered chemicals and a few bottles and did some calculations on the amounts necessary, went to the basement and came back with a hair tonic. My wife applied it immediately and for the first time in months felt some relief. She kept applying it and noticed that her hair got better. Her friends and colleagues started asking her about her hair. They looked fuller and of better quality. They looked healthier and "more". My wife told them about my hair remedy and they asked for test bottles. I went down to my basement again... This was at the beginning of 2017.

IV. Very first steps
  • After three or four of my wife's friends enthusiastically asked for more we decided to start a business. In Switzerland this is very easy. I went to my tax advisor and he said: "Just go ahead. We'll see later about your taxes." No bureaucratic nightmare. You just start and what you earn is taxed. It gets more complicated if you have machines and employees and regulations to follow. But for us it was perfect. I found myself working in different fields simultaneously and realized that apart from chemistry I had no clue. To understand a bit more of business I signed up for the "Business Foundation Specialization" course on It took me months to work through all classes and tasks. But it was worth it. After that I signed up for an SEO course on as well. I recently finished the part I wanted to learn. No need to continue at this stage.
  • Meanwhile I kept my full-time job but added another layer of efficiency to an already efficient work attitude.
  • For one year our business expenses went out of our own pockets. Chemicals, bottles, labels, logo design, website design, packaging, labeling machine, brand protection, IP lawyer, courses, books, travels, tax advisor. All in all between 15k and 20k in one year. Although I am paid rather well this was a lot of money for us. No holidays. No special treats. No presents for birthday and Christmas. We were set to follow this path and we are still following this route.

V. Where do I stand right now?
  • I want my company to be virtual and global. This is not yet the standard way of doing things, i.e. in Europe. Hence, I am learning a lot and cannot rely on other people's experience, except some high level overview literature. One of the things I learned was that if I want to sell on Amazon I need a company in one of the Amazon marketplaces in Europe (Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy). My company, however, is based in Switzerland. Also, Switzerland isn't part of the EU, thus free trade is an illusion. I then decided to found a second company in Germany. Why? The German border is closest to where we live. I found a lawyer and tax advisor there where I domiciled my German company. Mind you. We have so far sold products for ca. 8'000 CHF. No employees. We are somewhere between prototype and market-ready product (cf. below). At this stage one simply doesn't expand to a foreign country. But in order to take part in a much bigger market, the EU, I had to do this (you can imagine what I think of protectionism, living it daily).
  • I used this circumstance to organize my company differently. Production and most of sales will happen in Germany whilst the Swiss company will hold IP. Hence, most of our turnover will eventually happen in the EU (and will thus be higher taxed), while Switzerland will develop into our "headquarters".
  • If one wants to sell physical products in the beauty industry it is impossible to work from one's own basement in the long run. At least in terms of production. I looked for a co-packer in Germany and found a small mom'n'pop business with whom we have collaborated for a couple of months now. Stability tests, legal questions, recipes, ingredients, variations of our hair remedy (I have developed a series of four hair tonics so far: "Pure", "Sensitive", "Men", and "Curls"). I imported chemicals from the US to my co-packer and learned that US Postal Service is much worse than FedEx in terms of international shipping.
  • I had a legal question concerning our product claim pending with my IP lawyer for months. We bounced ideas back and forth and are now satisfied with the result. It took ages to settle things and a lot of money. But it was absolutely worth it.
  • I redesigned labels and packaging and am currently waiting for my printer to execute this order. After the labels and boxes will be ready they will be sent to my co-packer who will mix, fill, label, and pack the lot. From there, the bulk of products will be shipped to Amazon. My wife and I will then drive to Germany (5 hours one way) to pick up what we'll need in Switzerland. This means importing goods at the border. Waiting and extra costs. Thanks to protectionism.
  • In order to pay for all this I took up a loan for 25k. When dealing with a bank my Ph.D., flawless record, and stable job in the educational system helps a lot.
  • In the meantime I was thinking of recipes for shampoos. Pretty much all our customers are asking for a shampoo going with the remedies. Chemically this is more complex and requires a lot of thought. I.e. since our philosophy is to leave out what is unnecessary and stick to harmless, highly pure ingredients that still do the job.

VI. Where am I stuck right now?
  • My printer doesn't move his a$$. I am nagging him to get the job done. That's the bottleneck right now. And it costs me money...
  • I try to order a specific surfactant for my shampoo and have problems ordering it. Eventually I will succeed, but tracking down trustworthy suppliers is extremely time consuming. So far, I have ordered most in the US knowing well that the chemicals there are from China. The extra price I am paying is for product check and safety. In the long run I want to buy from China directly, but this requires much more experience in the field than what I have right now.
  • Also, the website needs to be overhauled. The last time I worked on a website was in '99. What worked then is considered paria today. I am currently sticking my nose into WordPress. Why am I doing this? I need to know how things work, need control over some key parts of the business, and need to save money.

VII. What are my goals for the rest of 2018?
  • I want my hair remedies to be sold on Amazon. This will mean that I had managed an entire product design and development cycle. This will also mean that our company transformed from a basement lab-driven shack to a "real" business with tested and matured products. This will finally mean that the next series of products (shampoos, hair oils etc.) will be market-ready much, much faster.
  • I want the first batch of shampoo to be tested. My wife knows at least 20 people who die for giving it a try. Not a week passes without people asking for the shampoo.
  • I need to get an insurance for my German company. I am covered in Switzerland.
  • My website needs to be up and ready the way I want it.

VIII. What's the future of this thread and why?
  • I want to update you guys on my progress. I want your feedback and will definitely need a hand here and there. I am living in a small village in the Shire (did you know that the Swiss inspired Tolkien for his hobbits?). Entrepreneurship is rare here and if it occurs it is locally targeted. If I go to a bigger city to meet people they are much younger (not a problem, on the contrary), but exclusively focused on web-based products. I, however, want to combine old economy (physical products) with new economy (e-commerce, digital marketing etc.).
  • Writing on the forum helps me realize what I have done in these past 16 months since we started selling our first prototypes. It helps me sorting out problems and identifying stuff I should be proud of. I want to use this forum as a commented log.
  • Despite all the dreams of an unscripted and financially independent life I really enjoy the process of building something. Just for my wife and me. No one tells me what to do. I have no clue if I will succeed. But somehow, deep inside, I know. I can't describe this in other terms, but that I feel very secure on this path. Of course, I didn't go all in (sorry MJ, I kept my job for now to pay the bills). This reduces my risk tremendously. But since we don't have kids I can work on my baby pretty much anytime I want. School? Yep. I'm there two full days plus one morning and one afternoon. Leaves me four days a week to work for my company. Do I lose time commuting? No. I usually take my bicycle to work.

IX. How will I market the products?
  • Most everyone I meet knows nothing about chemistry. People complain about labels and ingredients in foodstuff, cosmetics, pretty much every product in our daily lives. But people don't know and don't know where to get information from. Of course there are apps that tell you a certain ingredient is good or bad. But people cannot decide for themselves. They depend on a database underlying the app. But is the database correct? Does an ingredient kill a product or is it safe for most folks?
  • My goal is to built an academy for laymen and -women. Customers are fed up with being sheep herded by intransparent companies and their products. I want to address those folks who want to know more and learn more. The motivation can be professional: hair dressers, beauticians, people with a health background. It can also be personal: parents, grand-parents, men and women of all ages who want to live differently than the (fat and sick) masses. In marketing terms this is called "content-based", I guess. For me it is a heartfelt wish to use my other talent (education) to promote the results of my work as a chemist. More on this in a separate thread.
I was extremely busy setting this all up, but I am not visible yet but to a few early adopters and revenues have not yet covered all expenses. I am in an eclipsed state working through this tunnel hoping that my ideas, my products, my philosophy will pay off.

If you made it that far: Thanks heaps for staying with me!!! And thanks even more for sharing your thoughts with me.
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Platinum Contributor
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Speedway Pass
Aug 13, 2018
Hello, Aragorn from the Shire. Wow, what a story!

How have things progressed for you since you wrote this first post? Did you create the shampoo? Did you make it on to Amazon?


Still working in obscurity
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Jul 1, 2018
Hi Bekit

What great timing! I have just posted a thread on the INSIDERS forum to describe what has happened in between.

Yeah, we're on Amazon now. But it is as often. You think you reach a milestone and life will be easier afterwards. Only to learn that you entered an entire new land.

The shampoo is still in progress. I am not yet happy with what I have right now. I'm going in the right direction, but it is a challenge to follow our approach and get the results people are aspiring.

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