Lessons From a Year of Entrepreneurship

October 19, 2017

A year ago today, I launched Tuck: The Ultimate Comfort Companion on Kickstarter. I had only this one self-sewn prototype at the time...and boy is it sloppy.

 

 

This patch I’m holding back is actually glued on top of ANOTHER sloppily sewn patch. 

 

The colors on it were wrong, so I actually had to take colored pencils to them to create the right tones.

 

My girlfriend Michelle tediously stitched the thumbholes using about 200 pins because I couldn’t do it with my Shrek hands.

 

 A real life picture of my hands

 

 

I clamp-attached the snap fasteners with some silly looking plier machine that seemed to hurt the fabric more than help it.

 

I remember taking the product photos as I looked at the prototype thinking - “welp...guess this will have to do.”

 

 Here they are.  Not bad, eh? The magic of photoshop allowed me to make it look like more than one color existed!

 

Today - the kinks are worked out and that sloppy prototype is prettied up, cloned, and sent to almost 2000 people in over 35 countries. Tuck is somehow testing in 17 stores throughout Dubai and the UAE with more on the way, and the campaign has now been translated into Japanese and Chinese for their national crowdfunding websites.

 

 

We’ve developed a whole new product (the super luscious TuckXL, which is currently shipping out to Kickstarter backers), and most importantly, PocketChange Designs is on pace to donate over 500 Tucks to homeless men, women, and children across the nation this winter.

 

This is a start-up - so I am still very much at the base of this mountain. There is a seemingly infinite amount of learning and earning left to do - but I am very proud of where this company is 365 days in.

 

Every. Single. Time.


I am feeling a “This Is Us” level of emotion over it today, so I am not posting this to share my pride or ask for a pat on the back, but rather, for two other reasons:

 

1.To, again, thank everyone that has supported this venture in any way. Whether you shared a post, reached out to let me know you respect the idea, took a half-second to like a status, voted on one of my many random surveys/polls, or bought a Comfort Companion and straight-up Tucked yourself - you’ve helped more than you may realize.

 

Due to the nature of Kickstarter, the success of a campaign weighs heavily on the attention and support it receives in the first 1-2 days. It takes a lot of buzz to push over the first domino and create organic advertising - and most of that was created by my awesome friends and family.  Without it, the campaign wouldn’t have been what it is. I will never forget what those people did for me. You know who you are, ya sweethearts.

 

 

2. To reflect on the humble, terrifying beginnings of this project and let you all know that unbelievable things are possible if you dare to ask for them, put in the work, and drop any fear of failure.

I’m not particularly intelligent. I knock over far more things than I care to admit and Michelle often calls me an “infant” or “a baby infant” if she really wants to drive the point home. On our first date I literally tipped my beer into her meal, and this week I’ve kicked over my dogs’ bowls several times (READ: More than two times).

 

Hidden camera footage of me at CVS

 

It isn’t getting better - but that ability to make a mistake, shrug it off, and clean the shit up with a smile on and a lesson learned is what has gotten me through this whole thing - and what I have found to be the most irreplaceable ingredient of my happiness.

 

None of this business stuff comes easy. I knew it wouldn’t, but we are at the point where launching a business or building a side income is the easiest it has ever been - and it only makes sense to take advantage of that to some extent.

 

I knew a little about photography, videography, website design, social media management, supply chain management, marketing, advertising, accounting, customer service, HR at the beginning- but if you're starting a company that needs all those things to be top notch to be successful - you pick up skills on the job.

 

Thankfully, there are resources like YouTube to learn things in an afternoon; Upwork to outsource what you can’t stomach learning; Kickstarter to put your idea in front of thousands of people around the globe; Alibaba to find who can make that idea a reality; Freightos to get the product to your door; Stamps.com to turn your house into a dang fulfillment center.

 

Bottom line: Because of technology people are more powerful and capable than ever before. If we were to meet someone from 1950 and pull out our cell they would look at us how we look at Iron Man. However, most don’t take advantage of this because they can’t bypass that initial fear of screwing up when venturing into the unknown. 

 

 

I GET it. Right before pushing the launch button on my campaign, I messaged one of my favorite professors from UM, telling her how scared I was.

 

Her response: “Post with pride dude! Anything worth accomplishing doesn’t come without fear.” 

 

And she was right. (Thanks, Blau) Fear was the issue.

 

I was scared to do the video. Scared to flip my life upside down if it went well. Scared to go a traditional route with my head down if it went wrong, and (this is the big one) scared to show all these people from high school and college that my big plan was to produce and sell what many would most likely take one half-assed glance at and declare a Snuggie rip-off.

 

But I took the leap. I pressed the launch button and - like jumping off a really, really high cliff into the water down below - all the fear was before the jump. So, here’s what I’ve learned in this crazy year:

 

  • Pursue the weird, wild ideas that are “just so crazy they might work” - but look them up first to make sure nobody has done it right. If it is a product, like mine, "Google Patents" is a good one to make sure you're legally in the clear. Success leaves clues, but the same can be said for failure. Which is a good transition to...

  • Love the knowledge you get from failure. It is way more powerful than other types.

  • Accept that there will always be people who don’t respect what you do. Shift your focus toward those that do.

  • Never say “I don’t know how….” and accept it as a viable excuse. Go to Google and learn. 

  • Appreciate those you love and those that love you. There are many people that would do more for you than you may even realize.

  • Seek happiness if you do not have it. Be honest with yourself about what is causing your discontent. Change it. It doesn’t have to be instant - but every day work or plan at least a little bit toward a goal that you know would make you proud.

  • Think long term. Take a financial hit to make a customer happy if you need to. 

  • Last, but certainly not least - be content with who you are while ALWAYS looking at yourself critically and striving to be better.

 

The dude I was when I launched the campaign is far dumber, less talented, less empathetic, and less capable of creating change than the fella I am today. Tuck statistics are gratifying and all, but the personal changes that have amounted from this experience are the real treasure.

 

So - follow what makes you happy...even if it makes you miserable for a little while. You will have terrible days. You’ll think you made the wrong choices. Some people will think you’re a fool.

 

You will become better for it. Only you know what is best for you - so follow your gut.

 

Until next time, Gang. 

 

 

 

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