Starting From Scratch
We started with a mostly generic idea and an awesome eCommerce platform. What we will end with is a music gear empire. At least that’s the plan. The steps to get there will be long, full of impossible obstacles, and no Eagles to ex-machina us back home after we get their. So buckle up and join us as we take our idea from concept to profit generation. This series is going to document our adventures. Our successes, failures, and everything in between. Please feel free to cheer/cry/laugh at us as we make mistakes, crazy predictions and provide our insight into the scary world of business creation, development, and management. We’ve done it once with UniSyn, how hard can it be to do it all over again?
Everything Starts With A Vision
It was less of an idea and really more of a solution to a problem we were having internally: What’s the best way to test, enhance, and figure out features we need for our eCommerce platform. What’s trendy in 2016-2017ish that might lend itself to an online platform? Subscription boxes. Now we have a generic idea that could work. Although we didn’t have the tech for it, we could force it if we can get the product in the box right and could find customers. Brainstorming and some light research lead to our answer: Guitar strings. Cheap, high quality guitar strings shipped monthly to your door, ala Dollar Shave Club. Queue our first mistake. But it’s great. It lead to our best piece of advice we now push to every business that wants to explore something new.
Figure out how to make it scale.
This doesn’t mean the sales tactic needs to scale. PayPal got its start by literally finding people that they signed up for their service. However, PayPal as a whole had a product that could scale easily. Build the tech, and it’s ready to roll out to 100 or 100,000 people. We had 2 small oversights that made up our first big boo boo. We lacked the technology to quickly and effectively roll it out to any size customer group and we didn’t have any way to make guitar strings in-house. Turns out, you need to know pretty sophisticated metallurgy and have some really expensive machines to make that a reality.
No Subscription Module + No manufacturing capacity = uh-oh.
First, we didn’t have the tech. We lacked a subscription module for TopSale and the time to develop it didn’t make sense to invest time into investing on a long shot. So we tabled that as an ‘oops’ and figured we could develop it later if the business took off. On to the bigger issue: products. Off we went to find a manufacturer of great guitar strings and landed on one guy in the US that met our standards. The problem was he wanted a pretty large minimum order and we still had 0 customers and lacked the backend management pieces at the time. The risk was too high. There’s an important lesson here about not falling in love with any idea. We’ll get into that in another post. For now tho we have a logo, branding, and a website created and nothing to actually sell.
Build things on your strengths.
So what is easy to scale, has a decent profit margin, and has limited competition that has to do with guitars. Nothing came to mind immediately inside the music industry. But, I do have a friend who is somewhat of an artist when it comes to soldering and has repaired a ton of my guitars, amps, and cabl……CABLES! Guitar cables are fairly easy to make if you know what you’re doing. Scale really easily. Has a decent profit margin available and interestingly enough, has a fairly small market of other people that make cables well (and market themselves well). Couple that with my plethora of experience in the live sound and music industry and we have something that plays to all of our strengths as a business.
Now we have a product. Time to figure everything else out.
Exploration, Research, and Priorities
The boring next steps of every business. This is where the proverbial boys become men. Or the crappy entrepreneurs give up and go home. We’re not crappy. We love boring!
This sounds fun but it’s not. It’s like going to the mall with your wife and they have no intention of buying anything. You’ll find yourself saying “this is cool” and “holy crap look at that price” more often than you care to admit. But that’s all this is. You’re shopping for your product. Where are you going to find the cable? What companies are in the same space as you? How does packaging look? You’re shopping with no intent to buy and it can be a drag. But work through. The next step is slightly less boring.
This is the place were the accounting nerds thrive. You get to break down all the pros and cons of your direct competitors and companies above and below your target market ‘section’. First, we found a few companies inside our market that will be (and are) direct competitors. Then, we found 2 companies that were ‘cheaper’/more generic and 2 that were more premium. We took notes, figured out what we liked and didn’t like and married everything into our new product. Guitar, mic, amp, and various other cables for the busy musician.
We finalized a website here as well. www.rockitmusicrocks.com
This was a little tricky. We talked about how we handle our priorities a cleverly/not so random post a wee bit ago. We prioritize our customer’s customers. Paying our cable maker and making him happy is our highest priority. Keep him happy, keep the products sexy. Next was interesting,our customers initially were just musicians and live sound people. But, we realized to hit the market effectively we needed to get into guitar stores. So now our initial customers are our customer’s customers. We prioritized the things that they like. Hand made, high quality, long lasting, great warranty, recognizable brand name components. Married them and poof. A cable was born.
Now our customers. Guitar store owners. What do they want. It’s pretty simple. Easy to merchandise. Easy to sell. High quality. Great warranty support.
Music Store Owners are People Too.
They need to feel comfortable tossing a guitar cable onto the show room floor and knowing it can handle the abuse of every day use. As well as know that if a customer does manage to damage a cable that they can easily return and replace it with minimal hassle. We developed a few procedures over the first couple wholesalers. But we eventually landed on just having customers return the cable to the store, store replaces the cable with one on the shelf, and they ship us the old cable and credit their account or ship them a new one. Simple and easy. The goal of every transaction.
Other concerns popped up along the way. But if we talk about every thing we ran into now, what will we talk about in the future posts? Stay tuned, we’ll get into my inability to proof read, how to not use social media, and most importantly. How we got our first sale since we glossed over that above.