I've been on and involved with this site since its inception. It's been a sort of guide to me since I was a junior in college - it helped me break into banking and then PE. I've tried to give back over the years and am writing this because I think I can give back in a unique way, one that will be particularly interesting to anyone who has ever given thought to a side business or read the Four Hour Work Week. To that end, let me explain:
Today, I launched a collection of military-inspired briefcases and wallets under a brand called Matador
I launched it through an ongoing fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. I have finalized prototypes and am taking pre-orders and donations in order to fund initial inventory orders and jump start the business.
My bags and wallets are well made, have a bold style that's still at home in an office, and sell for substantially less than competing brands. I think they're particularly helpful for junior guys (like myself) given their look and price points, so check out the campaign and spread the word to friends and colleagues: Here's the direct link: http://igg.me/at/Matador
Given the amount of discussion on WSO about starting a business or a side hustle, I thought I could briefly walk through the steps I took to take Matador from idea to launch. I'm more than happy to take any questions you guys have about the products, the process, or anything else in here or via Private Message:
The idea for Matador came about when I was shopping for a new briefcase while I was still working in PE. I love the look of ballistic nylon and think the higher-end brands do a great job making stylish bags that are super functional (lots of pockets, super durable, etc.) That said, the fact that brands like Tumi and Briggs & Riley charge $250, $300, and more for their bags seemed nuts to me.
I did some digging into what else was out there and found myself let down. A lot of value brands are inexpensive but don't look so hot. Plus, I didn't want to be the guy carrying around the cheapo bag to board meetings when my bosses looked like bosses.
I've always been into fashion and accessories. And I spent three years working in an aerospace & defense investment banking group, so I got a ton of exposure to people involved in and around the military. Not to mention, my Grandpa was a paratrooper in WW2 and a good buddy of mine is in the Marines.
So, I set a goal to create a line of well made briefcases that sell for affordable price points and incorporate subtle military-inspired style elements. Bags that look great if you're going into a board meeting, an office, or anywhere else work takes you without costing an arm and a leg.
A Quick Note on Ideas
Now, let me be clear. I'm not interested in doing business for the sake of doing business. And while I've always wanted to start a little something of my own, I knew I wouldn't really dive into something unless I was really interested in it. Like many of you, me and my friends have tossed around ideas for apps and websites and what not. But, at the end of the day, I just don't give enough of a shit to devote hours and hours at night and on weekends to some random app and, frankly, I don't know anything about computer programming so what use would I be? Sure, an app or site can be rolled out and iterated quickly, but only if you actually know how to program (or care to learn). It's just not for me.
To be clear, I don't think I'm changing the world or putting man on the moon here. In fact, I sort of detest when people make their work out to be something it's not. Nor am I going to pretend that I have some sort of magic code on "what life's all about." Why? Because life is about whatever you want it to be and it would be total bullshit for me to tell you that any one path is better than any other.
With that said, my aim was to hit a specific pain point with a solution while creating products that I feel passionate about.
In short - you don't need the world's most brilliant idea, you simply need an idea that is achievable within your means, has a real market, and is something you're truly willing to devote a lot of time to. Because it requires a lot of work.
Step 1 - Taking the Idea from Paper to Physical Prototypes
Now that I had my idea and I felt passionate about it, I started sharing it with a ton of people. There is literally no reason to keep an idea like this a secret, especially when you're dealing with physical products. Is someone really going to steal your idea? Especially if it takes this much work and can't be coded over a weekend, most definitely not.
Even if you have an easily duplicated idea, unless the person you tell cares enough to devote substantial time to it in their off-hours, you're going to be fine. Getting feedback > the chances of someone running with your idea.
If anything, people were excited to hear what I was working on and to provide feedback as I moved through the process.
This stage is when the hard work really began. Anybody can sketch ideas on the back of the proverbial napkin, but how does someone who spent five years in finance cranking on models and memos make a briefcase?
Step 2 - Refining the Idea
I brainstormed a huge list of everything I liked about competing products in the market and why I liked them. What features were essential? What would I change if I could start from scratch? How would I incorporate tactical styling elements without losing the professional touch? I sketched out some ideas, shared them with friends and others, and refined my sketches while I began Step 3.
Step 3 - Finding Manufacturers
This takes a substantial amount of work, but is worth it once you find the right suppliers. I knew I wanted a manufacturer that made military and tactical gear (i.e. bags, vests, jackets, etc.), so that helped me narrow down my search.
I used Alibaba to search for overseas suppliers and ThomasNet to search for domestic manufacturers. My focus here was on capabilities, turnaround time, minimum order quantities, and cost. After a lot of hours spent on phone calls and writing emails, I narrowed the field to four companies.
Two companies were domestic and two were foreign. The final step to supplier selection was having each company make a prototype of one of my products. It pains me to say it, but this is where the overseas manufacturers shined - they were faster, more responsive, and simply did a better job. I wasted a lot of time trying to work things out with the domestic suppliers, but that's water under the bridge.
Now I had my suppliers selected, so I was ready for Step 4.
Step 4 - Finalizing my Products and Preparing for Launch
I worked extensively and intensively with my two manufacturers to refine my products through the prototyping process. My aim was to have a small but well-rounded collection of products to launch my brand with.
As I worked through that, I continued to solicit feedback to help make sure I wasn't missing anything obvious or turning out a crap product. A quick example of how feedback improved my products comes into view in my backpack. It was suggested to me that I add a slot to the back of the bag so it can slide over a luggage handle. Not only is this super practical, but it adds a cool look to the back of the bag.
Now that the products were coming together, I began looking at options for launch:
Option 1 - Buy inventory up front with my own cash and do a slow rollout
Option 2 - Do a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo to fund inventory with pre-orders and further prove out the concept
I decided to go with Option 2 as it allows me to get things going much quicker, prove out the concept, and make a splash at the same time. After much deliberation, I chose to go with Indiegogo. It's the exact same concept as Kickstarter but with some additional benefits. I'll touch on this a bit more in another post as I think it warrants its own discussion.
Step 5 - Launching Matador
All of my work brings me to where I am today. Launch Day.
I've been preparing anyone and everyone I know along with a number of blogs and influencers that my campaign is coming online. Now the final push begins to sell some products and bring this thing to life.
My campaign runs through March 10th (35 days total). It's going to be a mad rush and I'd love for each and everyone of you to share it with your friends and colleagues. http://igg.me/at/Matador
The Logo: Matador's logo was designed through a logo design contest on 99Designs.com. I had specific ideas as to what I was looking for and ended up with a really competitive contest. An additional benefit is that I now have a reliable graphic designer who does work for me on the side whenever I need it (mockups, logo tweaks, etc.)
The Campaign Video: The video was a ton of work, but I think it was worth it. Some of you might recognize my mug from a few webinars I've done for WSO. For those that haven't met me (online or otherwise), hi! As for the production of the video, I'm blessed to have a good friend who makes commercials for a living, so he was able to help me out. That said, there are a lot of production companies that can work on these sorts of videos for a good price (and they do great work).
A Brand Website: I'm putting the final touches on a very simple brand website to complement my campaign page. Should I hit my funding goal and get everything going, it'll be transformed into a full-fledged e-commerce store. While it's good to plan this sort of thing, I've got to take things one step at a time.
Facebook: Go ahead and Like Matador's Facebook page Share it with friends! There are also some more photos of my products on the page that you can check out.
Anyway, that ended up being a bit longer than I had intended. I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you like my campaign!
I'm more than happy to take any questions at all about what I'm working on or any general questions at all about the process of starting a company that makes physical products.
So go ahead and Ask Me Anything!