Insider #4: Our First Big Mistake

Lessons Learned

O.K., it’s time to admit our first mistake…and we’ll claim ignorance on this one. We could have done more to prepare for the ’99 retail season. Back in June, when we were making all of the “strategic” decisions, we were told that 90% of all retailers make their purchasing decisions in January and February. So we assumed that there was no way we could obtain retail shelf space for the Holidays and focused our strategy on selling MouseDriver as a promotional product to the corporate market. If it weren’t for our golf industry sales rep, we would still be cold calling major banks trying to sell them the MouseDriver concept. But, like most budding entrepreneurs, we’re trying to make the best out of our mistakes. Our current 1999 strategy is to utilize the Holiday retailing season to test market MouseDriver (i.e. sell through a bunch of different/fragmented retail channels). We’re hoping that by test marketing the product, we can gain valuable information that will help us better position and market MouseDriver when we “officially” introduce it at the PGA Merchandising Show in February.

Speaking of our sales rep…We both agree that having a strong sales force is probably the most important factor in getting the product to consumers. Whether you’re hiring a sales force directly into the company or using independent representatives to help “push” the product, these individuals can make or break the company. A couple of months ago, we made an important decision to hire an independent sales representative and a public relations consultant in the golf industry. At first, there was a definite “we” verse “they” atmosphere as both sides were primarily interested in executing their own agendas. But, over the months, we have opened up to these guys and shared with them our overall strategies, our concerns, our goals, etc. We have tried to made them feel like a part of the team and we feel that this will greatly benefit us in the future.

The “emotional rollercoaster” mood described a few weeks ago has become even more of a ride. Every day is a series of ups and downs and if you’re not prepared to handle the swings, the chances of surviving from a personal prospective are pretty slim. We won’t lie to you, this part of entrepreneurship really SUCKS!! For example, we’ll wake up in the morning and immediately receive and order for 200 mice. Emotions are running high, enthusiasm prevails, high fives are flying around, and then, we won’t receive a single phone call for the rest of the day. Depression and doubt then reigns. At least we’ve learned to recognize when we’re about to hit a valley…thank goodness The Presidio Golf Course is only a five minute drive away.

What We’ve Done

  • Turned down a deal with a group of professional golfers (citing overall strategy, timing and deal structure as the primary differences).
  • Spent money to design and develop a new and improved MouseDriver prototype. Not cheap!
  • Sent out over 400 media kits (press release, slide, color picture, the MD story, etc.) to writers and publishers in the golf industry.
  • Purchased a Sony PlayStation to be used during some of the “valleys” mentioned above.
  • Guest lectured in an entrepreneurial marketing class and served as panelists for a business plan competition seminar at The Wharton School.
  • Finally paid all of our back expenses that we have been incurring on credit cards. Simultaneously, we both managed to increase our credit limits on these cards.

Priority Goals

  • Make as many people as possible aware that MouseDriver units are available for the Holiday Season.
  • Finalize and ink a deal with a supplier in the promotional products industry. Our meeting with the first supplier occurs tomorrow.
  • Continue to search for an advisor…had we found one this Summer, we would have been able to devise a retail strategy much earlier.
  • Practice enough golf so that we at least look like we know what we’re doing the next time our golf instructor video tapes our swings.

Mood Meter: Still Impatient!


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