Insider #10: In the Money… One Year Later

OK, here’s our shameless promotional plug. Looking for a great Father’s Day Gift? Go buy The MouseDriver Set at Brookstone!

Lessons Learned

We’ve finally paid ourselves!!! On June 16th, 2000, exactly one year after donning the cap and gown at The University of Pennsylvania, we cut ourselves a modest paycheck. Now, from a financial perspective, we’re still below our initial sales estimates, but at least we know we’ll be able to pay ourselves through the summer and hopefully through the end of the year. Of course, we’ll need to make a lot more money before deeming this venture a financial success, but it’s pretty cool when you’re able to take an idea, bootstrap that idea with mostly personal savings and credit cards, sell that idea to others and then watch that idea provide you with some badly needed income. It wouldn’t be the same if we had millions of dollars in funding!

MouseDriver is now being sold in all of the Brookstone stores in North America. In fact, MouseDriver has been in Brookstone stores since late May and has been in such demand that Brookstone reordered within one week of putting the product on their shelves. We can’t begin to tell you how huge having this product in Brookstone will be for us. Last year, Brookstone sold over 800,000 electronic BBQ forks (you stick it in your piece of meat and it will tell you if your piece is well done, rare, etc.), and this year they’re expecting to sell alot more. Go into a Brookstone store and its BBQ Fork city…they’re promoting this thing everywhere. We’re not expecting to sell over 1M MouseDrivers in Brookstone, but we’re hoping that they will provide a significant amount of our sales revenue. 2000 sales projections will be given to us shortly after Father’s Day and then we’ll have to deal with financing (again) another inventory investment…we’re waiting anxiously. By the way, our new hobby is walking into Brookstone stores, talking up the product to random shoppers and watching people purchase The MouseDriver Set. It’s a pretty rewarding feeling.

Given our recent increase in sales, we found it necessary to put together a marketing budget. Granted, our budget is very, very small, but it allows us to strategically think about the most effective ways of promoting MouseDriver to the public and generating some brand recognition. After much debate, we’ve decided to allocate about 90% of our marketing budget to obtaining business PR. Our goals with obtaining business PR aren’t necessarily to increase sales, but rather, to help tie the “story” to the product and hopefully, give people an emotional tie to MouseDriver. The “story” that we’re pushing is a combination of two things: 1) Why would two Wharton MBA’s forego other lucrative career opportunities to manufacture and sell a novelty computer mouse out of their kitchen?.and 2) You don’t have to have a complex business idea to reap personal and financial reward…sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Since we can’t afford to pay a major PR firm $20,000 a month, we’re researching more affordable independent PR consultants to help us take The MouseDriver Story to the media. We hope this works.

We’ve got Cabin Fever…Big Time!! Not to say that working out of your apartment doesn’t have its advantages, but we are seriously hurting for some additional interaction. Sometimes, regardless of how much work there is to be done, we found ourselves lacking energy and motivation. We’d love to obtain office space, but it just doesn’t make sense to spend $80/square foot when we can take our “virtual” office anywhere. So, we’re going to start making an effort to work in other places…coffee shops,the beach, friends offices, exotic travel destinations, you name it…we’ll see if that helps us.

What We’ve Done

  • Finalized the initial design of our new retail single unit package and our retail bundle package.
  • Placed and ran our first consumer ad in Golf Extra Magazine (Southern CA publication).
  • Donated MouseDrivers to be used as tee/awards prizes in several high-profile charitable golf events. Hoping that this will generate brand awareness and goodwill towards MouseDriver.
  • Initiated our own business PR campaign and began researching independent PR consultants.
  • Began preparing for the 2001 Holiday Season. Seriously! Retailers/distributors start making product decisions 18-24 months out.

Priority Goals

  • Obtain accurate sales estimates from our current retailers and distributors.
  • Determine what our next inventory investment is going to look like and quickly determine how we’re going to finance this investment. Oddly enough, even if you do have access to cash (i.e. investment, bank loan, etc.), credit cards are sometimes the cheapest way of accessing money…especially if you have good credit and large credit lines!
  • Find a PR consultant and launch our business PR campaign.
  • Find for 3 or 4 more large gift distributors in different regions of the country (i.e. Northeast, Midwest, West Coast, Southeast).
  • Begin looking into guest lecturing at local universities.

Mood Meter

Mood Meter: We’re not too sure what our mood is this time around. Once all of the Father’s Day numbers are obtained, we’ll let you know what we fee like.


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