Yesterday was our first day of filming and it went really well but we definitely look forward to further discussions. One thing I was bummed about though is we did not get the opportunity to discuss how we got to where we are today. We were focused very much on the shoe, which was good, but I think there is a bigger perspective that is important to highlight. To date, "Billy's" has been a side project that Darin and I set up to grow organically, with limited capital resources - the majority of which came from our successful Kickstarter campaign that finished up in December 2013. Our vision for the company has always been a two-pronged approach. One side of our business will focus on the development and distribution of adaptive products that help empower independence for individuals with disabilities. The other side of our business will focus on the development and distribution of branded products that can be marketed and sold to the masses. Understandably with an organic growth model, accomplishing these tasks is a drawn-out plan.
Our first product was our adaptive ski glove, based on a prototype my father and I created to solve a huge challenge I had with holding my outriggers while skiing. Since securing a manufacturer in January of this year, our plan was to build up our inventory this summer and distribute the product before this coming ski season. The thought was to solidify the ski glove this year and then move on to our shoe solution next year.
And then we were contacted out of the blue for this television opportunity, so we adjusted our priorities and aggressively began pursuing our shoe design.
Sarah Prevette, one of the four investors being featured on the television show, is frequently a keynote speaker and has brilliant slides available online from past presentations. When I was looking through them a few days ago there were a bunch that particularly struck a chord with me in a very positive way. Granted the way I have them listed below they are very much taken out of context but if I may, I'd like to touch on each one as I feel they relate to our current business position:
"The most successful entrepreneurs study others. They listen, learn and adapt."
We are very excited to hear what Sarah and the other investors have to say. The conversation yesterday was focusing solely on us - we would love to hear their life stories and learn the genesis of their recommendations.
"Don't focus on deficiencies, focus on strengths"
This is my life story and a pillar statement of our company. "Focus on what you have instead of focusing on what you don't." In other words, work with what you've got.
"Success is largely dependent upon an unyielding belief is ones self"
Bingo, and this statement is along the same lines as the one above it. In terms of my injury, I truly believe that the injury is 90% mental - 10% physical. If you can get over those mental challenges and believe in yourself, you'll do fine.
"Fall in love with the problem - not the solution"
"There has to be a better way," I have said more times than once. That has been the starting statement, numerous times, focusing on and embracing barrier problems. "How can I get into bed independently? How can I roll in bed independently? How can I pull the cuffs of my pants over my heals by myself? How can I hold this pen? This fork? This spoon? How can I drive this car? How can I ski again? -- Our shoe concept is just another shared problem to love.
"Hire for resourcefulness"
The success of our company, thus far, has hinged heavily on the generous support of the resourceful network around us. Much of our support has been putting us in contact with the correct people in the know. Our ski glove is a perfect example. My friend put us in contact with his friend, the CEO of Outdoor Research, an outdoor clothing company based here in Seattle.
"Rally around a mission"
Our mission is to "Empower Others by Empowering Independence" and the message is contagious. We have found that with a goal of simply doing something good, many are quick to jump on board.
"Realize most people won't/can't work for equity"
Indeed. This statement particularly rings true for us since our company currently has limited capital. We have been doing mostly everything on our own.
"Small is beautiful (and a heck of a lot more nimble)"
We can very much relate to this statement and it supports our organic growth business plan. One question I would love to ask Sarah when I get the chance is how this statement lines up with our conversations yesterday. I feel yesterday we were being persuaded to go huge, as if we were trying to usurp Toms - kinda a go-big-or-go-home mentality or come-play-with-the-big-boys stance. This seems contradictory to the "Small is beautiful" position.
On one of Sarah's online slides it appropriately says, "Proactive vs Reactive". Well, we have been reactive to the incredibly generous investment opportunity and proactively striving to reel it in.
Here is our timeline over the past three months:
2/19/15 - Adam from the Casting Firm reached out to me via email after finding it on our website, which was posted on our archived KickStarter page. I thought it was a random, junkmail solicitor so I ignored it.
2/22/15 - Adam reached out again and I responded via email and then we had a phone conversation later that evening.
2/23/15 - I had a skype interview with Adam's boss, Ethan.
2/25/15 - Ethan pitched our story to Oxygen.
3/12/15 - Ariel, one of the show producers, called and said we had made it to "the next round", meaning there was a stronger chance we would be considered for the show.
3/14/15 - With the growing television potential, Darin and I met to reevaluate the current position of our company and how to move forward.
3/16/15 - We mailed our store-bought Sanuk shoe to our Mike Gaei, our glove manufacturer, asking him to cut it apart sew in a zipper per our renderings and brainstorm design.
3/26/15 - Gladys, one of the show producers, called, introduced herself, and gathered more background information.
3/27/15 - We received a photograph from Mike showing one of the Sanuk shoes with a zipper installed.
4/6/15 - We received a design quote back for $2500 that was much higher than we anticipated so did not pursue it.
4/8/15 - Gladys asked us to have a finished prototype in time for filming. The Sanuk shoe modification was a good start but a more finished sample is preferred.
4/9/15 - Darin reached out to a shoe manufacturer contact, Winnie, he had previously communicated with under his other shoe project, Swootz, sending her photographs of our Sanuk creation and other conceptual renderings.
4/10/15 - Winnie replied back saying she could make the shoe sample once she fully understood the project, had specific material call outs and received payment.
4/15/15 - Winnie accepted the project and began working on our shoe, giving a range of 2-4 weeks plus 5 days shipping.
4/18/15 - We received our modified Sanuk shoes back from Mike.
4/19/15 - I put my own shoes on independently for the first time since 10/9/96.
4/22/15 - I had a conversation with Gladys getting more information about the show.
5/2/15 - Darin and I met in person to discuss further company steps and filming preparation.
5/8/15 - Filming in Seattle and our first opportunity to meet everyone, including Sarah, in person. This was also the first time I saw the photographs of our China prototype and received news the prototype was complete and shipping the following day.
So to wrap up this novel of a blog entry, when we look at our company I am very pleased where we are at. Am I ready to go on cruise control? Heavens, no. Darin and I are doers and I think the past few months are a another reflection of that. As another one of Sarah's slides pointedly states, "Adapt or Die," right?
As a company, Darin and I have some stretch assignments for Monday, when we meet the other investors. And as always, we are up for the challenge.