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INTRO Re-intro: Laid off. Side "business" is a mess. Scaling back up from 0

jesseissorude

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Hey all! I've been lurking a lot more and figured I'd re-introduce myself.

Title says it all. I neglected the business I started in 2013 because I found a steady contract with a fun, exciting tech startup. Awesome benefits, I worked from home, they flew us to other countries just to party (and do a little yearly goal setting).
... and then their business started hitting lots of speedbumps, and here we are.

I didn't neglect my business totally, though. In fact, I kinda ran it as a vanity business and ended up making some contacts with some HUGE players in the industry who are being crazy helpful when they heard the news. They've already given me an insane amount of help, even giving me assignments.

TL;DR -
  • I had a small electronics manufacturing business
  • I found an exciting tech job. Basically I was a consultant that would help ecommerce businesses increase leads/conversions/profit
  • I didn't nurture my existing side-income and my steady $2k/mo dropped to $200/mo
  • I got laid off in the past month
I have tons of savings, but my girlfriend and parents are stressed. The pressure is huge to make this work and scale back up FAST or I'll be job hunting in about 1 more month.
Honestly, this feels like my "one last shot" to have an actual business. I guess this is my F*ck This Event.

Since I started working on this on Jan 2, I'm in the middle of a product re-release campaign which should earn $2,139 profit. Wouldn't be bad for my first month, but def has to get higher.

If this launch works out I'll:
-get back on the Inside so I can be more candid with what my business is and my actual numbers
-join a circuit design program to brush up my skills and get a little mentorship
-prep for a big tradeshow coming in July (would be great to have 6 products to demo)

What I can help with:
Electronics Design
Product Prototyping
Ecommerce optimization (but I'm trying to get better)
Wholesale / Sales Pitches

What I'm trying to improve: (mostly marketing related)
Instagram marketing
PPC marketing
Content generation
Ecommerce
Systematizing product launches
 

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ZF Lee

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Welcome back. Sounds like you've got it planned out!

I have tons of savings, but my girlfriend and parents are stressed. The pressure is huge to make this work and scale back up FAST or I'll be job hunting in about 1 more month.
Honestly, this feels like my "one last shot" to have an actual business. I guess this is my f*ck This Event.
Thank goodness they still support you.

I honestly don't think that there's such thing as a 'last shot', but you can have the 'last day' of an old life that you won't need any more.

-join a circuit design program to brush up my skills and get a little mentorship
Interesting course. Where did you find it? Online? University?

Don't think an online course could be that technical though.

First time I've seen an anime gif around here....:rofl:
 
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jesseissorude

jesseissorude

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I honestly don't think that there's such thing as a 'last shot'
I definitely agree, it just feels that way. Otherwise I'll be scaling up as a side-business like I had tried to do before. :frown:

Interesting course. Where did you find it? Online? University?

Don't think an online course could be that technical though.
contextualelectronics.com
There are basic versions of his courses for sure, but I'd sign up for the advanced one.
There's also a consulting option. I could hire him to review my product designs / source weird parts before I send the CAD files off to manufacturing.

First time I've seen an anime gif around here....:rofl:
Ha! Then I'll make it a point to find more.
 
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jesseissorude

jesseissorude

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A little update on this from the past few weeks:

I'm in a soft-launch of a new product, been interacting with my old social media accounts every day (getting about 2 new followers a day).

The parts for the product haven't even arrived, but I've already made a sale for $160.

So small, but I hope I'm on the right track. I need to move 25 units to reach my first goal.
Stores have agreed to buy 12 so far, but I'm not counting those as sales until I have the cash in hand from the invoices.

I can design products quickly, but damn I need to figure out marketing.
 
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jesseissorude

jesseissorude

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You can do it man - good luck!
Welcome back, and good luck
Thanks guys! Sales are going ok. I'm doing a lot of things that won't scale and sales are taking a lot of legwork.
I'd like to get organic sales through the website to be a lot higher (some mentors in my industry say 60% of their sales are through their sites and 40% are through wholesalers). Right now, for me, it's 80% wholesalers.

My site is a mess, I need product demo videos, I need content for IG, and creatives for FB ads and IG ads, and ultimately I need time to design more products to add to the lineup.

I'm having fun.

If I can just get 10 sales I'd be confident this is going somewhere.
 
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jesseissorude

jesseissorude

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Feb 1st, really feeling the pressure to make this happen after paying my rent just now.

I did a "soft launch" of my product last Friday. Got a single sale. I was hoping for a bit more.

My parts still haven't arrived, but I had enough on hand to fill and send out the single order. Today I'm going to go oldschool:
-make a spreadsheet of friends to sell to
-reach out to each one directly
-make them a custom discount code if they reply positively

I did this just now for an order of a different product.
A past purchaser in my store messaged via instagram to tell me that they were enjoying the soft-launch content and that they were going to purchase something.
The order never came, so I messaged them last Friday saying "Hey did you ever make that order? I forgot that I was going to make you a custom discount code for it."
27mins ago he got back to me saying he hadn't and he'd love a code.
Created a custom code for him (just his name), and he made a purchase. YES!

None of this is scaleable, but damn I need to make sales to prove that this is worth my time.

Recap of goals if I make these 25 sales:
-get back on the Inside
-make a progress thread so I can be more candid with my numbers / identifying info
-prep for big trade show in July. 6 products minimum
 
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jesseissorude

jesseissorude

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Things aren't going great.

I still haven't received some crucial parts for my first run of 25 products, so everything is still in "pre-sales."
I'm being told by mentors that my next move is to get sound samples and demo videos of the product made, but that's going to take a couple weeks at least (time for the rest of the parts to arrive, then time to ship out samples to influencers).

I'm wondering if there's anything I can do in the short term to get more sales. So far, instagram worked, so I'll try more of that. I'm also direct-messaging friends.

1 sale so far :bored: Launch was Jan 25.
 

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What do your potential customers already spend money on that indicates they could spend money on your product?

Where do they hang out online? Can you join those forums or Facebook groups and start helping people with advice?
 

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jesseissorude

jesseissorude

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What do your potential customers already spend money on that indicates they could spend money on your product?
Without giving away too much identifying info (I'll do that more on an Insider Progress thread), I make electronic widgets and wholesale them to music stores (but I'm trying to sell more through my own site to increase margins).
People I know who buy these products typically buy 3-4 similar ones every year. Branding and differentiation is key, which is one of my weak points right now.*


Where do they hang out online? Can you join those forums or Facebook groups and start helping people with advice?
Oh dang, great idea! There are specific FB groups for the widget I make. It's also is a money raiser for a cancer charity I work with, so I could share the presales info in groups related to that.
I'm making a quick list and messaging the mods of some of those groups now to see if it would be ok. Great idea.

*Ideas on brand differentiation: I am a former rocket scientist, so I could lean into that and have everything look 60's space-agey and have the widgets look like a control panel of an Apollo capsule or old aerospace control panels.
Example below: control panel of a B-52. My line of doodads could look like that in the future
 

Suzanne Bazemore

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I have tons of savings, but my girlfriend and parents are stressed. The pressure is huge to make this work and scale back up FAST or I'll be job hunting in about 1 more month.
Honestly, this feels like my "one last shot" to have an actual business. I guess this is my f*ck This Event.
Sometimes it takes an event to rock your perceived sense of comfort to make you realize that it was just a mirage.

I honestly don't think that there's such thing as a 'last shot', but you can have the 'last day' of an old life that you won't need any more.
I love this! This is inspirational.
 

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Without giving away too much identifying info (I'll do that more on an Insider Progress thread), I make electronic widgets and wholesale them to music stores (but I'm trying to sell more through my own site to increase margins).
People I know who buy these products typically buy 3-4 similar ones every year. Branding and differentiation is key, which is one of my weak points right now.*



Oh dang, great idea! There are specific FB groups for the widget I make. It's also is a money raiser for a cancer charity I work with, so I could share the presales info in groups related to that.
I'm making a quick list and messaging the mods of some of those groups now to see if it would be ok. Great idea.

*Ideas on brand differentiation: I am a former rocket scientist, so I could lean into that and have everything look 60's space-agey and have the widgets look like a control panel of an Apollo capsule or old aerospace control panels.
Example below: control panel of a B-52. My line of doodads could look like that in the future
Maybe the “Who can you help?” call in my signature might help.
 
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jesseissorude

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Still 2 sales of the actual product I'm launching, but 2 more sales of another product that I previously offered (at a much higher price).

Instagram seems to be the source of each of the sales. 1 was a complete stranger who found my site, 3 were ones I pursued.

Parts arrive Monday, and next task after having actual product on hand is to send a couple out to get demo videos made. Part of the profit goes to an awesome charity, and the charity gave me control of their social media for a week to promote the new product.
 

Real Deal Denver

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Still 2 sales of the actual product I'm launching, but 2 more sales of another product that I previously offered (at a much higher price).

Instagram seems to be the source of each of the sales. 1 was a complete stranger who found my site, 3 were ones I pursued.

Parts arrive Monday, and next task after having actual product on hand is to send a couple out to get demo videos made. Part of the profit goes to an awesome charity, and the charity gave me control of their social media for a week to promote the new product.
OK - you're super strong in engineering. That's the HARD part, so you are in a great position.

But marketing? Man, that is the easy part. Send out samples to have a video made? Do you have a smart phone that can do video? Ok - then go here: Easy Online Video Maker and make a great video very easily and quickly.

THEN make a website in one hour - and put that video on that website. You will now have *something* to work with. Unleash your one on one marketing and start doing some business!

If I make this all sound easy, it's because it IS! Crap man - I bought a URL, made a logo, built a website, set up email, and made some hard hitting direct marketing pieces. ALL from scratch. I'm not brilliant, nor have any special talent for these areas. My results are not world class, but they're not bad either. Do you know how much FREE graphic images are available on the web? More than you could use in years.

Just do it. In 48 hours, or less, you can be UP and running full speed. There's SO much data and how to info on the web, you can learn anything you need to within an HOUR or less. I literally created my company from nothing to a full fledged ready to do business enterprise in about 2 1/2 days. It's amazing the power that is within reach - that website for creating impressive websites is a perfect example!

Google and YouTube are your best friends. Figure it out one step at a time. You will be surprised what you can do when you remove the mental road blocks from your mind.
 
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jesseissorude

jesseissorude

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@Real Deal Denver
Thank you for the comprehensive post! Site has been up and making sales since 2014, so no worries there.

For videos, I've been trying to shoot and edit a decent one on my phone, but damn they ended up so bad. I feel like I'm wasting too much time when I should be working on adding new products to the store.
I'll check out that tool you posted though!

A mentor with a similar company gave me the name of his go-to demo video guy. The final parts should be arriving today or tomorrow and I can send out samples
 
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jesseissorude

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Just a quick update at the end of the week.

All parts have arrived! I built the inventory and shipped out the pre-sold units this Monday.

I'm up to 6 units sold for a total revenue of $820.91, and a few more "soft yesses"

I haven't paid for any ads/promotion yet.

Activities I've done so far:
  • message friends!
    • If they won't buy my doodad, no one would.
  • posts on my social media accounts.
    • These seem to have driven most of the sales so far. I only have 764 followers, but got 3 site sales from it.
  • Reach out to five wholesalers I've sold to before.
    • Two local stores made small orders, and I've nudged the other three earlier today.
  • Took @Andy Black 's advice and posted to a few relevant FB groups
    • Built a relationship with the mods of one group. He has an ecommerce store and is interested in dropshipping my product. Could be something to look into.
    • Even posted to my own apartment building's residents group, ha!
    • No sales from this yet, but I only started these posts in earnest today.
  • Gave a couple units to influencers. They haven't made posts yet, so no incoming traffic from this channel yet.
Looks hopeful, and I'm doing better than @LordPhenny at the very least :happy:

I'll transition to the Inside soon, but I do want to hold myself to that "10 units sold" goal.

----

Overall feelings:
It sucks to have lost my $5k/mo income from my old job, and look at this $820.91 for the last month's effort.
That's total revenue too... the actual profit is only about $478.31

It does feel good to have created that money "out of thin air" and by doing something that really interests me. The income has to get a lot higher though.

Anyway, have a great weekend!
 
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jesseissorude

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Two more sales yesterday. That puts me at 8 so far. 2 more to go to reach my goal of 10.

I made a set of sales projections that carries me through 2023 with a goal of having a $1M/yr business. (From research I've done on my niche, I think this is a pretty realistic goal if I have much better execution than my competitors.)

Based on my first month's sales, here's what I came up with for this year's monthly goals:
upload_2019-3-8_10-27-2.png

This will carry me though to a $100k/yr business. I realize, of course, that I'm working to be Self Employed right now... but that'll be my exit for the fastlane.

Ok, back to work. I have to get these orders out and head to the post office.
 
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jesseissorude

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Things aren't going so hot.

If I want to make my March goal (see above post), I need to sell 2 units this week. I would have liked to sell one by Tuesday and one by EOD tomorrow. So far, none.

I made 2 sales on Thursday of last week, so maybe I can pull that off again. The last sales came from a post on a charity's 1000-follower Instagram account (my product helps raise money for them). So far, that's at least 5 sales directly attributable to Instagram. Back in 2013, all my sales were coming from Google Ads. Yesterday, I started running my first Instagram ads, so fingers crossed.
 
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jesseissorude

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No sales last week, so goal for this week is 4 units sold.

I'm $75 into IG ads, and no website sales from that yet.
I'm about ready to say "F*ck it" and get an Insiders Pass just so I can share more confidential info and find out what the fudge I'm doing wrong.

To reach the 4 sales this week:
  • cold pitching to new wholesalers
    • I currently have five stores that I've sold through, this will be to get new stores
  • 3 current wholesalers don't have my newest product, pitch it to them
To find new leads for the cold pitches, I've scanned a few competitor's sites for their "Dealers" pages and made a spreadsheet. I'll learn about the stores, find the stockist's name, and send over my pitch with wholesale catalog.
 

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jesseissorude

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F*ck it.


I pitched to 4 stores via email yesterday (called to find the stock buyer's name ahead of time)
Got one response toward the end of the day, and set up an appointment to meet the buyer.

I went to the meeting with the buyer this morning. He said one product was "spectacular" and the other was "really really nice"... I could tell he liked the newer product best.

Ultimately, he didn't buy yet, because the store just relocated 2 months ago and money is tight right now, so they have to run new purchases through the owner's son. The buyer repeated again and again that he's sure he can make something happen, so it's a soft "no"... but damn things aren't moving as fast as I'd want them to. I'm 4 unit sales behind my projection.

I just said "F*ck it" and bought an Insider's Pass.
I'll make a progress thread that recaps this info and hopefully I can identify better next-steps once I'm sharing more candid info.

I'll add that new thread to my signature.
 
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jesseissorude

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Me right now haha. Best of luck to you! Seems you're taking the necessary actions to get back to where you started and beyond.
Thanks so much! Best of luck to you as well, I just started following.

I'll end this thread here since it wasn't supposed to be a progress thread. I thought it'd intro, make 10 sales in a week or so and be an insider right off the bat. So far it's been 6 weeks and I have 9 sales, that's it. I've picked the thread back up on the Inside --> Building a Music Electronics Business (AKA Journey to a Toblerone)
 

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