Ask For Help
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Ask For Help
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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ask for help it's something that i it took me a while just because i have a lot of pride and i think that i can teach myself anything which might be true but it might take years and that's not very smart so every time i've asked for help it's always led towards more progress um and faster than i would have been able to do on my own and most people want to help you succeed [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur has grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the ceo and founder of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours to feel free to reach out to us go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat today we have another great guest on the podcast and nicole the did the angelus that was i i started this stutter and then i think i made my way through it uh but uh so it was a quick introduction to nicole um so she's in her own words she was one of the weird people that she knew what she wanted to do when she was in middle school um grew up in ohio but went to new york and wanted to go in and be into marketing so um also i think at the age of five years old was into art and then went off to temple university in philadelphia severed studied advertising did several different internships worked with a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds and like to understand you know kind of where they're coming from also i think worked on political advertising for a period of time um intern got hired to do digital ad agency after that um didn't like new york decided it was uh wasn't the place for her so decided to move out uh go to a different place and also had an idea for an app that worked on uh with friends for a period of time uh lived in austin i think in 2010 or so um revisited some of the ideas the app development that they'd been previously working on did as a side project had a few other things going along the way and that kind of brings us up to where she's at with her business so she'll talk a little bit more about which is uh reef froth uh froth or frosh broth all right with that much is introduction you can correct anything that i slaughtered welcome on the podcast nicole um i feel like i should hire you to like be my rep that was such a good rundown it was like better than i could describe myself so all right well mission accomplished i didn't slaughter it too badly so so i gave the quick 30 second or so run through and it was quite the journey to try and or to get through but why don't you take us back a bit in time to being kind of the one of the weird middle weird people he said in middle school that knew what she wanted to do and kind of how your journey started there yeah so i was always um really creative and always kind of thinking about the next thing that i should be doing um and coming up with these oddball ideas and you know trying to get my parents to support them my sister i would make her my fashion model when i made a dress out of curtains things like that um but you know i actually i was pretty good in school but i never really enjoyed uh the heart like the hard i don't want to say hard like they're hard but like the hard sciency topics such as science and math and um i always loved art but um my i had a father who worked uh he his career was in accounting and finance and he basically was like well i'm not going to support you if you're an artist so i would suggest you figure something else out to do maybe you should be a vet because you love animals and i was like i hate science so i was like thinking about what i wanted to do then because i knew that i i wanted to get out of ohio where i was from and i knew that i would need to support myself and i really liked art and i kind of got obsessed with watching commercials and referring products to people just because i saw them on tv and i thought this would be a really really cool thing to do and at that point i kind of got laser focused on working in advertising when i grew up so so now you got laser focus you're going to do advertising when you grow up you go off to school you get a degree in advertising now when you get after you get the degree and you're coming out with the you know with the with the degree you're coming out of university kind of where did your journey start from there where did you you know where did things pick up yeah so um i did a few different internships during college at a variety of different agencies some larger some smaller and my last one was actually in new york at a digital agency and i really liked working with the people there and i learned a ton and i thought i was going to go more into the design and art direction route but after interning with them they were like hey we think you'd be a good producer project manager do you want to do that and i had been working on campus in our graphic design center for three years where i kind of ended up like leading our design team and managing our products their projects and workflow and i thought ah that's interesting i wouldn't have to be doing the the manual tweaking of every design and uh the revisions because that's the annoying part but i get to have a say in what's designed and developed and that sounded interesting to me so i joined that agency full time when i graduated so now so you joined the agency and that was in new york is that right so you did that and how long or how long were you with the agency how long did you do that for um i was there for a couple of years um i would have stayed longer if i made peace with the craziness that is living in new york great place to visit love visiting living there is a different story so now you so you you find out you say okay new york is a great place to visit it's not so much where i want to live you got you know but you do have your job with the the advertising agency and you've been doing that for a couple years getting experience there with all of that kind of how did you decide to make the leap where did you go to next kind of once you decided okay new york's not the place i want to be at forever what or what how did you decide to transition from there yeah um i had a good friend that i met in college he was from texas originally and he was like all about texas and i used to make fun of him because i just thought texas was like kind of a hillbilly place i hate to say coming from the northeast um but he invited me to come visit he was like i think you'd really like it i think you'd really like austin i think you'd like the vibe um so i came and visited uh in the winter holiday it was over new year's and i had so much fun the pool like there were pools that were open we could go swimming it was january everyone was happy we could get margaritas for like two dollars and he told me how much his rent is and i just like my jaw dropped so um yeah i you know did some quick calculations and realize how much cheaper it would be to live here in austin and i kind of just did one of those reflections of my life and what i wanted to be doing and decided that i should quit my job and move to austin and somehow convinced my parents to give me the third car that they happened to have because i decided i needed a car so i drove down from new york my friend met me and yeah it was we got here on valentine's day in 2010. so now you get there on valentine's day you know did you have a job lined up did you have an idea of what you wanted to do were you just going to say hey i'll move down i'll figure it out when i get there kind of how did you transition from you know new york had a job you know intern there worked there for a couple years to go into austin was you know did you have something lined up or how did you decide or how did you figure out what to do once you moved down there i honestly didn't even look for a job before i moved down which i know sounds insane um but i kind of just wanted a mental reset i had i mean by the time by that time in my life i had already had like 30 different jobs if you count all the different like gigs and things that i had done since i was in high school um i was always like a very enterprising person and i felt like i needed to give myself some time to have breathing room i mean i never studied abroad i never like i started working right out of college so for my own mental health i decided to take a break and then eventually um much to uh the dismay of my parents i i took on some like random part-time jobs that didn't really have anything to do with my degree but were like nice for my mental health um while also taking on some freelance projects so i i got connected to different people that needed websites or brand development and i worked on those projects to kind of keep fresh so now so you do that for a period of time and then you know you and i also you know you make friends or make additional friends in austin decide you like it you know work the the various kind of odd jobs in that now how did you get it back into uh reef or is it reef froth or frost i can't remember how to pronounce it refresh all right i always want to say refresh so then i get then i get tongue tied when i try and go to say it so you how did you guys or where did that enter into the picture because i think it was the business that you kind of started had the idea set down pick back up so kind of how does that intermix with your um with the your journey as far as going to new york and austin and figuring out odd jobs and everything else yeah um so i you know i had always been exposed to a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds just you know through working part-time from such a young age and also living in different cities um so i've just i've been one of those people watchers who likes to get insights about how people tick and how they operate and just common threads throughout um what makes us human so i actually that i guess that sort of like informs where i'm coming from but i had the idea for refrosh when i was living in new york uh one of the reasons why i didn't like living in new york so much was because it was really difficult to make friends there and i felt like i was a weirdo because i couldn't make friends and i didn't even know how to talk about it like say hey i want friends because it felt almost too vulnerable to even put myself out there in that way i would go to networking events um i made friends with my co-workers they were all older than me we weren't in the same life stage um but it was really difficult and at that point i had learned so much about technology and data um and you know how how technology can connect to us you know with facebook and things like that um and i was just thinking how could it how could technology connect us in a more meaningful way where it's explicitly around helping you make friends based on things based on data points that technology gathers about you which we know now there's like an infinite amount of pieces of data so i feel like i'm rambling no i don't think that makes sense so so now you have that idea you're kind of okay you know you you want to figure out a new way to network how to make you know to to get in a comfortable zone to recreate that experience and kind of go through all of that so now how did you build the business around that or did you build start to build a business was it kind of a side hustle did you pick it up put it down kind of or refresh it or refresh it on kind of how that evolved to where it's at today yeah so i had the idea for it in new york i looked for some developers to help me because i knew that it wasn't something that i could build on my own that didn't really prove fruitful i moved to austin kind of let it go um you know had some life experiences including living in france and then i came back to austin and i was like okay this is still a problem it's not so much a problem for me right now because i have made friends because austin is a very easy place to get settled in but it's still a problem for a lot of people um so i set out and i found a developer to work with me who was also interested in the problem we didn't meet through a mutual connection or anything like that so i wouldn't say that the relationship was super strong necessarily it was more out of convenience and he was great but we ended up kind of having different visions about how it would move forward so we went live for about nine months attracted a few hundred members had a big launch party got a little bit of press um did these introductions in a very low-fi manual way because we weren't interested in building tech until we had proven out um that this kind of you know interaction friend making facilitation was something that people wanted um and more importantly that they would pay for so so you see you you kind of pick that back up and you say okay kind of got a mutual connection or at least someone that can help on the programming side want to build it so did you you know after you bought or get back from you know seeing a bit of the world and going on you know and going on that stand did you dive in full time did you do this as a side hustle did you feel bor or form a team or kind of how did that kind of evolve along as you're saying okay this is still a problem that we'd like to fix yeah at that time it was really me and my co-founder i was i i didn't know a fraction of what i know now about what it takes to actually launch a business i i knew a lot about advertising i knew a lot about building websites um i didn't really know a lot about fundraising or actually building a startup team and really rallying people around what i was doing and what steps i needed to take to show traction um so at that point it really was the co-founder arsenal networks he i think i don't think he was working at the time um but i was working at an ad agency in austin um because i at that point i didn't really have the savings to support myself and we weren't we were making a very tiny amount of money so i needed a job fair enough so so now kind of now bringing yourself forward so where are things at today what are you doing you know with uh reef roth with your you know any other you know support you know supporting yourself as you develop this kind of the same thing with the co-founder kind of where things lie today so i decided to pick this back up in march so it's been a little less than two months at this point um i was working full-time for a tech startup um and i left that job at the end of the year i kind of went back to that soul-searching phase i feel like it happens you know every 10 years or so at least for me at this point and i had dabbled with starting a pet accessories business a couple of years ago while i was working full-time and my first inclination was to try to move that forward and at that point after doing some more analysis about what it would take to really get it off the ground i decided it wasn't the right move for me just because of how much capital would be required how much competition had entered the space in the last two years and frankly a reliance on overseas suppliers which wasn't making me comfortable in the end so i hadn't really intended it was sort of in the back of my mind refresh always was there especially after the emergence of bumble which happened pretty much a few months after refresh launched and then with the growth of tinder and other apps that people are using to meet people um the idea was always there and i kind of always had some regret that it didn't move forward so when i took that break decided the pet accessories thing wasn't going to happen and i was like okay refresh i had a place to start from of course it's rebuilding it from the ground up but let's do this thing so now i have savings because i've been working for i don't know the past 15 years not more um and i have a pretty strong network so i've been leaning heavily on people in my network i've developed a small cohort of advisors that are helping me across technology branding operations and then i'm building a very small team of we'll call them contract part-time workers uh that are helping uh with more of the executional things around marketing social media um and design and i am on the hunt but i'm taking a very kind of judicious approach this time i'm on a hunt for a technical co-founder because that's going to be key that's cool well sounds like a lot of things going on a lot of progress and a lot of road ahead to keep figuring things out so all exciting so well as we start to to wrap up the podcast i always have two questions and just as a heads up to everybody we'll also go over the bonus question and chat just a little about uh intellectual property if we get a minute at the end after the normal episode but as we jump to the two questions i always ask at the end um first question i was asked is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it yeah so i was thinking about this um for quite a while because it's sorry i give these very like over thinking answers i honestly feel like i can't say that there was one necessarily worst business decision because i definitely have that mindset that every so-called bad decision is a learning opportunity and because i haven't scaled a business to the extent that it's generating so much revenue it has so many stakeholders i feel like any decision that i make that isn't good at this point is a teachable moment and it's important for me to make so then i'm going to rephrase the questions i'm not letting you get out of it so what was one of the teachable or decisions you made that was a teachable moment over your journey getting myself into too many things not saying no um i i get excited about things i get excited about building and creating and we'll take the pet accessories business for an example there um i made it i made some decisions that i wouldn't make again uh in that i went pretty far in the product development process without necessarily knowing that i was going to have revenues or how i was going to pay for production and i would have scaled back how many things i produced and i also would have vetted out the vendors that i was using a little bit more carefully that sounds like a great learning experience some might even call it a mistake that you learned for but we won't call it that so all right so then now or then as we go to the second question which is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or small business would be the one piece of advice you'd give them starting their own business or joining a startup starting their own business we'll go with that okay ask for help it's something that i it took me a while just because i have a lot of pride and i think that i can teach myself anything which might be true but it might take years and that's not very smart uh so every time i've asked for help it's always led towards more progress um and faster than i would have been able to do on my own and most people want to help you succeed no and i tend to agree and i think that sometimes we feel like hey we have dude on our own we don't want to burden people we don't want to be a nuisance or you know mooch off them so to speak and yet most of the time if you ask people for help they'll either tell you hey we can't do right now but here's other people who give you some thoughts or feedback but most of the time people are pretty willing to to give lend a hand to help people out as they're you know doing whatever startup or small business they're getting going on so i definitely think that's a great piece of advice so well as we wrap up and we'll chat just for a minute about uh intellectual property here in just a minute with the bonus question but as we wrap up otherwise for people who want to re or check out reef roth and they want to find out more about it they want to be a they want to be a client that customer they want to be a user they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out and find out more well you all of those things are great please reach out to me however whichever channel you prefer um all of our social is at refrosh it's r-e-f-r-o-s-h and my personal email is nicole refresh.com and you can visit us at refresh.com simple all right simple as that so i definitely encourage people to reach out connect up and find out more um so thank you again for coming on the podcast now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show two more things as listeners uh one is uh make sure to click subscribe to your paw cats players so you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so everybody else can find out about our awesome episodes last but not least if you ever need any help with patents trademarks or anything else feel free to grab some time with us to chat at strategymeeting.com so now as we wrap up the normal part of the episode we'll at least talk or get an opportunity to chat just a little bit about intellectual property which is obviously an area that i enjoy and it's kind of fun to switch you know switch gears a bit i always get asked the questions during the normal episode so now i get to be put in the hot seat so to speak so with that i'll turn it over to you that uh for what's uh an intellectual property question you have so i understand uh fairly well uh intellectual well sorry but i understand a patent of a physical product you have your diagram um and actually that's something that i explored with the pet accessories business because i had created this unique collar which is also why it took quite a while to produce um and that was a daunting process looking into that there was a lot of well maybe you don't know you have to put it out there and it's very expensive to do that um and i learned about provisional patents i did a lot of research about this i guess what advice do you give to people that are worried about defending their intellectual property but might not have the money to invest in it and aren't sure if their idea is even patentable yeah and i think there's probably a couple questions in there one is you know whether or not you should actually invest or whether or not you should dive in the other one is let's say you do get a patent or you know you you do invest in that how you might going about uh protecting it or otherwise enforcing it as a small business or as a startup so on the first one i would look at it and say you know in intellectual as a startup or small business you always have more things to spend money on than money to spend so as you're looking and saying you know weighing it i would first of all make sure that you actually invest where you're going to get the business up and running because it doesn't matter if you have intellectual property if the business never gets up and running never goes anywhere the intellectual property isn't going to do any good now with that said the the thing that you're gonna then probably the next step is okay we've got the budget set aside we're gonna get things kicked off we're gonna get things started now how do we protect it so really intellectual property patents trademarks copyrights whatever your business might be has serves kind of two purposes one is kind of defensive where it allows you to box out or to protect what you put all your blood sweat and tears in what you develop so that others can't come along and and copy it or otherwise ride your coattails the other thing that it does is also allows you to have an asset that's you know an actual valuable asset of the company that you can license you can you know sell you can if you do a merger or an acquisition or you try to get investors anything of that nature you can actually capture and get an asset that encapsulates a lot of the time and effort and money that you've invested for r d so that's kind of when you're trying to decide when does it make sense is when do you get to a point that you've invested enough with time money and effort you're saying hey we have something here that we want to protect but we want to have as an asset that we can invest in on the flip side you know you ask a little bit about enforcement now if i were to get into enforcement it's it can be more dif it depends on who you're trying to enforce it against if you're trying to enforce it against another small business you know then you may be able to compete may say you know if you're saying hey we have the money we're going to send you a cease and desist letter you need to stop a lot of times small businesses are in the same boat they don't know that they're infringing on you and they'll stop so that one is one that you can typically navigate a little bit more easier now if you're up against a big business it is going to be more difficult because it is expensive a lot of times to enforce and if you're up against a big business that's better or better funded then you're going to say we can't we don't have the same amount of money to invest that they do um there's a couple always a couple options there one is you know every business has a competitor and you know you try and think of apple has samsung pepsi has coke you know um ford has chevy and all of those different companies they always have a competitor something that's up and coming somebody that's a big competitor and they're always trying to you know outdo one another so if you're not able to necessarily enforce it yourself a lot of times you can go to the competitor and say hey we have valuable intellectual property we have great r d and you know this your competitors are starting to encroach in this phase their space would you like you know would you be interested in either licensing from us or acquiring us or whatnot and it can oftentimes give that competitor that competitive advantage and they can go out and force it for you the other thing a lot of or sometimes you can do is what's called a patent troll and patent trolls can get a good name and a bad name in the industry and they they deserve both of them but patent troll is basically someone that's not in the business of manufacturing things but their business is basically to go out and enforce patents so a lot of times they're going to look and say you know basically they'll go out for a percentage or for either percentage of the company percentage of the proceeds or whatever structure they work out say we'll go out and enforce enforces patent against those bigger companies because you have invested a lot of research development time money and effort and these they you should be compensated if somebody else goes out in fringe so that's another option as far as when you're looking for enforcement the last one you can do is sometimes the timing just isn't right you may say hey we're too small we're not big enough but hey we're going to keep going we've got a good business we're still getting bringing on revenue we're still becoming better we're going to out innovate them now we're going to keep ahead of the market and then we're also going to buy our time so in three years four years five years down the road when we are big enough when we do have enough revenue then we're gonna circle back we'll enforce it and we'll have the wherewithal to um to make sure that we can keep that competitive ed so there's a few different options as far as how you decide what to get and then how you decide to go about enforcing it so with that i probably got on long enough with intellectual property i could go on a much longer if i ever wanted to and nobody would want to listen except for myself so with that we'll go ahead and wrap up the podcast thank you again nicole for coming on it's been a fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks so much devin this was fun you