The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

INTRO Started a business with no sales

Remove ads while supporting the Unscripted philosophy...become an INSIDER.

ShannonK

New Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Mar 25, 2019
8
5
16
Albuquerque, NM
Let's clarify...we started a business but to date have no sales. This is not what we intended or wanted.

Let's back up and start from the beginning.

I joined this group a few years ago after having read TMF (which I have subsequently read twice more) and enjoy reading the posts and replies in this forum. I appreciate people’s willingness to discuss and offer helpful recommendations. Other than my initial introduction I haven't posted up until now because I did not have a business, wasn’t taking action to start a business, and I really didn't feel like I had the experience to offer advice. I gave a copy of TMF to my oldest son with the hope that he'll benefit from it while he's still young (he's a junior in college). I have two more copies that I will give to my other two kids when I feel they’re ready for it, which will be soon.

I grew up in an environment that valued the slow lane safety of employment through a large company or the government over entrepreneurship. I ultimately felt a calling to the military, which I acted on and subsequently served over twenty years in the military. It was very rewarding and fulfilling for me and if asked I would say that I would do the exact same thing again even if I had read TMF before making the decision to serve in the military. Many military retirees capitalize on their experience by working for companies that do business with the military, or where they can leverage their leadership or technical skills. I decided to do something different by buying into a franchise because I thought it was equivalent of owning my own company while having some level of safety by buying into an established business with an established process (had not yet read TMF at this point). TMF discusses one of the mechanisms for wealth to be the creator of franchises. I was on the other side of that deal and it turned out to be a mistake because I held all the risk with limited upside potential and, as I later found out, there was little in my power to enforce the franchise agreement without substantial legal expense. So, I got out of that and, because I have a family to support, went back to what most other military veteran do; I leveraged my education and experience to get a job with a fairly large company. I work in a field that has high educational and experience barriers to entry. As a result my family and I have a comfortable life. But there's still something missing and even at 54 years old I still want to be free (to the degree that I can be) to live my life the way I want and not continue to be beholden to a large company. I also want to be an example to my children and instill the concepts of TMF through actual experience.

My kids are avid rock climbers. The sport evolved from being a niche sport and is becoming more mainstream. My kids have participated on a team and in organized competitive events at the local, regional, and divisional levels. My oldest son was good enough to make it to several national competitions. We have spent a lot of time over the past 11-years at rock climbing gyms, at climbing competitions, doing outdoor recreational climbing. My opinion is that the sport is in a growth phase, which will accelerate after the next summer Olympics.

We developed a business idea that we felt would bring benefit to rock climbers based on our understanding of the sport and the people who participate in the sport.

The initial concept was to design, manufacture and sell a product to help climbers build strength. We believe our product adds value based on customer comments for existing products and people we have talked to. We have subsequently expanded on our original idea by developing additional products, all conceptualized, designed, and manufactured by my kids and me.

This idea was conceived about 18-months ago. What have we have done in the past 18-months?

We started by sketching out a design by hand and then using Tinkercad to clean it up. We then used Fivrr to find someone to put it into SolidWorks (we eventually abandoned Fivrr and moved over to Upwork to continue this SolidWorks activity).

Once we had a design in SolidWorks we needed a prototype. We had trouble finding a company that would build a full scale prototype for a cost within our budget so we used 3-D printing to create full sized plastic pieces so that we could do fit ups with the other pieces that we built ourselves.

We went through a couple of iterations of improvements and eventually took the plunge to have three prototypes produced using actual production material. There is one component of this product that had to be bought from China (too expensive to buy similar components made in the U.S.) so after reading Walter Hays’ book on importing we ordered three samples of the component from a company on Alibaba. That worked out a lot smoother than I was expecting.

We put it all together and tested the three prototypes and made some final design changes.

We were (and still are) concerned about market appetite. While we think our idea is the greatest thing ever the truth is that there are only a couple of competitor products on the market. We actually saw indications of past products that are no longer being sold. We don’t really know how big our market potential is, but the lack of existing cut throat competition kind of indicates that either this is an undeveloped market, or maybe there isn’t as much potential as we think.

This uncertainty drove a decision to do a small production run of our components, including another small purchase from our Alibaba vendor.

We filed to create an LLC. Obtained liability insurance. We bought a couple of website names, one for the company and one for the online retail store. That may seem complicated and an unnecessary cost, but we think it gives us latitude for more future opportunities to do it this way.

We did take the time and committed money to pursuing a provisional patent on the product design. I had studied many patents and was familiar with the terminology, phrases, etc, so I wrote the necessary documents myself. We hired a patent illustrator on Upwork to create the illustrations we needed. I then hired an attorney (again via Upwork) to edit and file the provisional patent. I know that some people have the opinion that this is a waste of time and money because patent litigation to protect the patent is expensive, but this allowed us the time to continue thinking it over while continuing to develop the business.

We again used Upwork to find a graphic artist to develop a simple, but nice, company logo. We used the design to make stickers (printed by StickerMule) which we attach to the products. We took our own product photos, edited with Pixlr for the website.

We worked on and created a nice company story that ties to the product line.

We researched and decided to use Shopify to host our online store. We linked our retail store domain name to Shopify rather than use a domain name created within Shopify. The decision to use Shopify was driven by the following factors; the platform is not Amazon, it is well established, comprehensive, and simple to use. The website went live on October 1.

At this point we don’t have any intention of using Amazon. We have been using Google Ads (all directed to the online retail store) to make people aware of our product and drive traffic. We set the budget low because this is a shoe string operation at this point, but it has been efficient because we get about 25-40 visits per day and recently received a note from Shopify telling us that our website is in the top 25% for website traffic compared to other sites started at the same time as ours. I assume that’s true. We have not yet explored other sources of advertising like FaceBook, Instagram, etc

Despite the traffic we have what I believe to be significantly below average conversions and sales so we trying to figure out why that is. It could be that there really is no market for our product. It could be pricing. Our products are generally in the $150-$250 range (although anyone who participates in rock climbing knows it’s not exactly the cheapest sport in which to participate). It could be the product design. It could be website design. It could be a lack of previous buyer feedback. I’ll post a follow up once we figure that out.

In the mean time I hope forum participants found this post interesting and informative.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Last edited:

Stargazer

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Mar 8, 2018
388
734
293
England
Hi Shannon

Have you taken your product to any Climbing Centers to get feedback?

If some of the members like the idea and one of the Instructors does too then it should be simple enough to get them to stock some.

If they have a newsletter they can write an honest review in an issue. and get some interest.

However many such Centers there are near you, try and go to all of them.

You want as many actual users to have it in their hands. Including anyone who has a Youtube channel in this field.

By the way if the product is anything to do with grip/hand strength think of other potential users. For example elderly people with arthritis.

Dan
 

Ing

Silver Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jun 8, 2019
634
596
190
55
Bavaria
I m rock climbing for about 30 years now.
I never would buy an expensive thing for strengthening.
You do easy routes first and harder ones as your strength rises.
No good market imo.

I m riding Motocross for about 40 years. I would buy an expensive gadget to rise my strenght in the hands.
Here its important to have the strength for not falling and getting injured.

So I would look into that nice and google for „armpump“!

Just my 2 cts
 

George Appiah

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 16, 2018
246
495
229
41
Accra, Ghana
Despite the traffic we have what I believe to be significantly below average conversions and sales so we trying to figure out why that is. It could be that there really is no market for our product. It could be pricing. Our products are generally in the $150-$250 range (although anyone who participates in rock climbing knows it’s not exactly the cheapest sport in which to participate). It could be the product design. It could be website design. It could be a lack of previous buyer feedback. I’ll post a follow up once we figure that out.

I'm hoping and praying that you'll eventually figure things out.

But, in my opinion, these are all questions that should have been explored much earlier in the journey.

The likes of Quibi can afford to burn $1.75B of other people's money just to find out if people cared for their product (hint: people didn't, they shut down after just 6 months). But that's not the kind of gamble most of us here should be taking.

 

MHP368

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 17, 2016
762
1,160
376
34
Sahuarita AZ
We developed a business idea that we felt would bring benefit to rock climbers based on our understanding of the sport and the people who participate in the sport.
And it begins! :D , no market research?
We were (and still are) concerned about market appetite
Yes.
We don’t really know how big our market potential is
So , besides the ads , could you bring the prototypes to indoor rock climbing centers?

Have a rock climbing blogger take a peak? (And maybe do a writeup?)

I did the same thing myself (started a business on a hunch of market need)

Next time i'll just run ads with a mockup to a fake landing page to collect emails to test viability.

At the least though you got yourself a nice tax eriteoff and a bunch of invaluable hands on experience.
 

ShannonK

New Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Mar 25, 2019
8
5
16
Albuquerque, NM
Hi Shannon

Have you taken your product to any Climbing Centers to get feedback?

If some of the members like the idea and one of the Instructors does too then it should be simple enough to get them to stock some.

If they have a newsletter they can write an honest review in an issue. and get some interest.

However many such Centers there are near you, try and go to all of them.

You want as many actual users to have it in their hands. Including anyone who has a Youtube channel in this field.

By the way if the product is anything to do with grip/hand strength think of other potential users. For example elderly people with arthritis.

Dan
Hello Dan and thank you for the feedback. My son actually works at our local climbing gym, have engaged the gym owner, and are in discussions. He's been busy keeping his business afloat during COVID so we're not pushing too hard right now. I think we'll set up a table during the next local competition.
 

ShannonK

New Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Mar 25, 2019
8
5
16
Albuquerque, NM
And it begins! :D , no market research?

Yes.

So , besides the ads , could you bring the prototypes to indoor rock climbing centers?

Have a rock climbing blogger take a peak? (And maybe do a writeup?)

I did the same thing myself (started a business on a hunch of market need)

Next time i'll just run ads with a mockup to a fake landing page to collect emails to test viability.

At the least though you got yourself a nice tax eriteoff and a bunch of invaluable hands on experience.
Thanks for the feedback MHP368,

Yes, we did market research about the idea but it was limited to a relatively small circle of climbing friends and kids on the team. Then COVID hit and the gyms shut down. We then asked a few of those folks to test our prototypes (we had three made) and used their feedback to improve on the design. I am skeptical of feedback from people who know us because I think they would tend to say good things so as not to hurt our feelings.

I subsequently read about a feedback technique whereby you frame the inquiry in a negative way like "I have this idea but the more I think about it, it doesn't sound like it would be very successful...." and lay out the idea. They can either then agree with you, or counter if they actually thought it might be a good idea.

As we were looking at the market for products that are similar to our products we sensed it was a small market, but found it to be hard identify the definitive reason why. The one product where we could see customer feedback (on Amazon) had a couple of bad reviews because of poor design. Another product (not sold on Amazon) doesn't have customer feedback reviews on its website. Both have pricing that are in the ball park as our product.

It was a lot of "on one hand.... on the other hand..." type reasoning. Ultimately we felt like the only way to know for sure is to do a limited test production run and throw it out there, then tinker with the marketing, pricing, product mix, which is where we are now. We actually do have a couple of test products on our website that are nothing more at this point than pictures of prototypes for that reason.
 

ShannonK

New Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Mar 25, 2019
8
5
16
Albuquerque, NM
I'm hoping and praying that you'll eventually figure things out.

But, in my opinion, these are all questions that should have been explored much earlier in the journey.

The likes of Quibi can afford to burn $1.75B of other people's money just to find out if people cared for their product (hint: people didn't, they shut down after just 6 months). But that's not the kind of gamble most of us here should be taking.

Ha! Luckily we're not blowing any where close to $1.75B to bring this to market. On the order of a couple thousand (of our own, not other people's money) at this point thanks to the fact that we manufacture most of the product ourselves.
 

Sponsored Offers

  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Fox Web School "Legend" Group Coaching Program 2020
Hi Fox, After reading your threat and watching some of your youtube I have several query ? 1...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
If you read the last message then you know I'm removing my courses from Udemy next month. You...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Grow Your Business With a Book (An Unorthodox Marketing Strategy That Built One of the Largest...
PS. what do you think about the idea of setting up live Busking experiences on Air BNB? I could...
  • Sticky
FEATURED! Introducing... WEALTH EXPO$ED, A Short Story By MJ DeMarco
Hi Mj, I just bought it. And reading it. I think is a great idea to write using the stories to...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Just got off the phone with @LightHouse. Having just a 45 minute conversation with him has...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Kill Bigger Incubator
@Kak Thanks for the reply. Whats interesting is that I have an idea that's been cooking which...



Forum Sponsor

sponsor

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom