Insider #11: Out of the Apartment… Finally!

OK, we’re running a couple of months behind on The Insider, but we have a great excuse. The retail industry comes to a crawl during the Summer. We would have written something last month, but nothing happened…literally. At least our golf games have improved somewhat.

Lessons Learned

John is thinking of dying his hair Platinum Blonde! We’re not talking about the casual highlight here…we’re talking jet white. We’d like to think that he’s contemplating this because of his desire to be a renegade, to show the world that he’s not afraid to be different and go against the grain. And, of course, to continue to bring much needed awareness to the company (Platinum Concepts, Inc.). However, we know that if he actually does make a visit to the salon down the street, it will be a direct result of working out of our apartment kitchen for 13-MONTHS (seriously!)…it’s absolutely amazing the things you’ll do to “change your environment” when your creativity and motivation are stifled in such a lackluster setting. On that note, we’ve finally found office space, and it’s conveniently located two doors down from our former strategic boardroom… Starbucks. Thanks to a friend on the Insider Distribution list, we’ve secured the back room of…get this…an old massage parlor. It’s not much, but it’s relatively inexpensive, has phone and network connections, and adds another virtual stop to our repertoire of workspaces.

We’ve run into a little snag during our search for regional, stock-holding gift distributors. THEY DON’T EXIST!! Although we were hoping to find distributors who would purchase MouseDriver from us and then deal with all of the selling, shipping, invoicing, collecting, etc, we’ve discovered that products in the gift industry are primarily sold through manufacturers representatives. So now, we’ve got a huge decision to make with regards to our overall strategy and our company structure. Do we continue to hold out and hope to stumble across a distributor (or another manufacturer) who can actually hold inventory and sell MouseDriver to gift stores and department stores, or do we start utilizing rep networks and find a way of billing, collecting, etc. ourselves? We’ve pretty much decided that the latter is a “no-option” as neither one of us is particularly excited about spending the majority of our time in QuickBooks (our accounting, invoicing, financial software package) and essentially becoming a collection agency. Hopefully, those expensive MBA skills that we acquired will help us to very quickly come up with an alternate, creative distribution strategy.

On Monday, August 14th, we will officially launch a broader public relations campaign to help generate more product awareness, to help us secure some speaking engagements and to help tell the “business story” of MouseDriver and generate credibility for Platinum Concepts. We’ve been planning on launching this campaign for some time now, but the search for the right public relations agency/individual took a lot longer than expected. In the end, we were torn between an agency in NYC and an independent consultant in LA (a reference from another Insider member). Here’s what we found out: Agencies can offer lots of resources, experience in launching other consumer product campaigns, credibility with the media and potential overlapping synergies with other clients. Independents can offer lots of motivation/pride, lots of time/availability to dedicate specifically to you and your product, and most importantly, the ability to align themselves with your company culture. In the end we chose the independent consultant in LA for two reasons: she’s a 45-minute plane ride away and she has shown a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in working with us. Look out…the publicity is just beginning!

Managing inventory sucks! If you don’t buy enough for the Holiday Season, then you get to kick yourself and think about all of those sales that could have been made. If you buy too much (like we did last year) you get to kick yourself and think about all of the money that was spent inefficiently. It’s a never-ending quandary and especially difficult when you don’t really have past sales in which to base your next inventory investment. For all of you business school crods out there, we are living one giant beer game simulation (aka inventory simulation). Fortunately, we’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time developing a financial model that allows us to perform all sorts of different inventory what-if scenarios and have a pretty good idea of what we should and can afford to invest. It’s all still a crap shoot though…let’s just hope MouseDriver will be as hot as we expect it to be.

What We’ve Done

  • Played two rounds of golf in Pebble Beach free of charge (and made complete jackasses out of ourselves).
  • Gathered sales estimates from all of our current distributors and retailers for the rest of the year.
  • Redesigned MouseDriver packaging and point-of-purchase display based on customer/retailer feedback. It’s going to have much more of a gifty feel to it.
  • Began discussions with distributors in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Europe.
  • Purchased wireless web phones so that we can continue to work virtually (the email feature works great, but everything else is pretty suspect)

Priority Goals

  • Complete our inventory production run for the 2000 Holiday Season.
  • Achieve full-penetration in all of our target segments by Father’s Day 2001 (golf stores, gift shops, department stores, sporting goods stores, and mass merchandisers).
  • Kick-off and support a broader PR campaign. We’re hoping to be spending a good amount of our time speaking/guest lecturing and different schools around the country.
  • Move into the new office space ASAP!

Mood Meter

Let’s be honest here. We’ve put in the work, we’ve paid ourselves 3 times in the last 13 months, we’ve solidified distribution and the Holiday Season is just around the corner. We’re ready (and very anxious) to bank some serious cash!!



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