My name is Adam and I am a casting producer with The Casting Firm, Oxygen & FremantleMedia (American Idol, America's Got Talent). We are seeking young entrepreneurs/inventors who are ready to pitch their concept/company to some of the country’s most successful business leaders for “The Investment Club,” a new television series on Oxygen.
I came across your Kickstarter which led me to your website. I would love to chat with you about your business and products and see if we can be a good fit for one another. We want this to be a positive experience for everyone who participates and hopefully, make you a lot of money!
Please email or call me at your earliest convenience.
The message had spam written all over it so I ignored it thinking it was junk. But Adam from The Casting Firm was persistent and reached out three different ways—Kickstarter, Facebook, and then email through our www.getbillysgoat.com website. Getting three of the same notifications from three different sources over the course of three days made the "spam" begin to feel rather legit. It was then that I wrote to Darin saying I'd find out more.
I wrote to Adam on February 22nd and he immediately replied back and we spoke on the telephone later that evening. Connecting with his boss, Ethan, Adam set me up with a skype interview for the following evening.
Some of the interview questions included:
Billy's, trademark of parent company BillDon LLC (www.getbillysgoat.com), is a small business tailored to provide individuals and those with limited hand function a means to help overcome daily challenges. Our mission is to empower others by empowering independence.
What inspired you to start this business?
The original business plan was to start with an adaptive shoe; something that I would be able to use with limited hand function. The long term business plan was to expand to other adaptive products. Because I already had a rough prototype of an adaptive ski glove that I was personally using (something my father and I conjured up) we decided to start manufacturing the glove first to establish the company (and build revenue) before moving to the shoe; a project requiring higher capital. As for why, the gloves because I was sick of using duct tape and knew there was a better/safer solution and the shoes because that is the only piece of clothing I cannot put on independently.
What sets your business or product apart from anything currently available, and why do you believe it will be a success?
Our current product on the market is a ski glove that enables those with limited to no hand function to use their outriggers while skiing in a seated position (via sit-ski). Until now, a product like ours did not exist on the market. We have already received praising reviews of our product from adaptive ski programs and end users. I am a quadriplegic and there is no way I can do what I do on the ski slopes without our gloves. They allow me to ski faster, on steeper terrain, with a better sense of independence. We know others will share the same success.
What are you looking for from the investors? How would you use their investment and expertise?
Our ski gloves are the first step in our business plan. Our next step is an adaptive shoe that one with limited hand function can put on and take off. Of all the clothing I wear, the one item I cannot put on independently are shoes. We have a shoe design that will solve that problem—and the solution is not Velcro. I have been in a wheelchair since October of 1996 and have yet to see a shoe solution on the market that I can independently use. Our shoe design is simple and stylish and does not carry the stigma that Velcro does. By using zippers and possibly magnets, wheelchair users, those who have suffered a stroke, those with severe arthritis, or anyone with limited hand function now have an answer. In addition, those that are fully able bodied but want to wear something different than all the rest can also wear our shoes.
The most beneficial investor would be someone with shoe manufacturing experience. With shoe manufacturing traditionally being sent overseas it is very challenging to know where to start. In addition, the minimum orders are in the thousands making the initial investment substantial. We still have open ended questions like what material selection, should we select a generic sole or create our own, how many different size lasts should we initially invest in, and I guess our biggest question is who can we trust? Any expertise and support we can get in this arena would be the most ideal.
How is your company currently marketing your product?
Prior to our KickStarter launch for our ski gloves, I collected email address for every ski area and adaptive ski program in the US and Canada. Part of our KickStarter strategy included an email blast to each of these customers (about 1000). Since then sales have been through word of mouth and via our website: www.getbillysgoat.com.
As for shoes, all we have at the moment are some conceptual drawings.
If your company ran out of money, what would you do to stay afloat?
This company at the moment is a side project in the spirit of good will. If the company ran out of money I would continue to stay afloat with my full time day job at the Federal Aviation Administration.
Do you have any partners, or are there any other stakeholders in the company?
The company is currently made up of two equal partners, myself and my business partner, Darin Donaldson. Both Darin and I are titled "Co-Founder".
What does success look like for you?
We have already achieved success—as soon as we received positive feedback from our first sit-skier excited and thankful for our gloves we were successful. Now what does more successful look like? More positive feedback and more thankful customers. The choice to use a sit-ski should not be made based on if the skier can hold their outriggers. I think the most heartfelt email we received was from a gentleman who had given up but was willing to give sit-skiing another try after seeing our gloves and how they allowed him to independently hold his outriggers. These heartwarming stories define our success... and will be our bench mark for our next product, our shoes.
How would you describe yourself?
I was born and raised in the Seattle area. Growing up, I was very active in the outdoors and team sports. I was also in the Boy Scouts, becoming Eagle at 16. I worked as a camp councilor in high school and college, my final job being Program Director, managing a staff of 50.
I went to college at the University of Washington studying mechanical engineering. Unfortunately during my freshman year I fell from a 3-story window, which broke my neck and back, leaving me a C6 quadriplegic. After spending 5 months in rehabilitation, putting my life back together both physically and mentally, I returned to the University of Washington continuing with the degree I had just began. I graduated in 2002 and joined the Federal Aviation Administration in 2003 where I have worked ever since.
In my free time I continue to ski via sit-ski, spend time with friends and family, and travel. I volunteer at the University of Washington Medical Center (where I did my rehab) acting as a peer mentor for patients with spinal cord injuries—basically trying to show there is light despite whatever tragic circumstance that just occurred. There are countless people that have helped me along the way and volunteering is the least I can do.
Finish this sentence: “My life motto is….”
Every day since my accident on October 9, 1996 my life motto has been, "I am blessed to have another day on this earth."
How would people you do business with describe you, and why?
Inspiring, but that is not something I brag about. I am just getting through life the best I can (just like everyone else) and if people find inspiration in that then two-birds-with-one-stone, I guess.
Why is the success of this venture important to you?
Making the world a better place is the right thing to do.
After answering all of Ethan's questions, I sent him some renderings of our shoe concept and a handful of pictures from my childhood. And then taking all that information, Ethan assembled some sort of "Billy Portfolio" to pitch to the Oxygen executives.
The pitch was earlier today so fingers crossed it went well!