Find A Balance
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Find A Balance
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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it's finding a balance between confidence and humility right you need supreme confidence in in your idea and your unique ability to make this idea a reality whether it's product or service whatever at the same time you need humility to know not only what you don't know right like i knew i'm not good at marketing and sales i i need to also recognize there's other stuff i don't even know i don't know and having the humility to bring that on but balancing when i bring in third parties to give advice balancing that with confidence that but i have this great idea and i'm moving it forward and so i think there's that inherent tension between confidence and humility but striking that balance seems really important to being able to move things forward and keeping it in the direction that you envisioned [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven eight-figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we focus on helping startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours let's go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat now today we have another great guest on the podcast bryn wilson and to give you a quick introduction to brynn um now we want to say brienne so just as a caveat if i ever say brianne i don't know why i might always watch this to pronounce your name that way but my apologies in the front end but uh brynn uh was an unlikely um entrepreneur went to college and uh uh i was going to law school went to went into michigan i went to michigan and got an english degree and english or french during undergraduate and then went to nyu for law school um then worked for an attorney for bid worked as an employment law doing some some counseling and litigation and then decided to um take some time off spend the with the family uh there was a state stay-at-home mother for uh for nine years so that's great and that's what my wife does so it's definitely that's awesome and then i went back to the law firm for a period of time and then more recently with the law firm also wanted to her gunned her gave notice of law firm so that she could focus on doing a start-up and endeavors that then that she'll dive into a bit more on that end so um with that much as an introduction and hopefully i don't call you brienne too much um but uh or welcome to podcast thanks and thanks so much for having me i respond i get all sorts of variations on my name and i respond to just about any of them so it totally works like it's it's one right if i think about it i know but it's just like if i don't if it's just you know natural how i do it some reason my mind always connects brienne with the when i see the name so i always just want to apologize in the in the front end so i don't slaughter anybody's name but definitely so i gave a quick introduction to your journey kind of uh you know uh high level overview but maybe just take us back a bit in time to kind of going to college going to undergraduate and getting your majors and then going to law school and kind of how your journey started there sure um so i grew up in rural michigan and i always you know from a young age apparently i was opinionated and argumentative and so i was always going to go to law school uh so i went to michigan had like four fabulous years go blue i would say it was kind of the quintessential college experience it was just you know terrific all around and again i was pretty focused on law school so took sort of a traditional pre-law approach and did english and french not a super useful language but a pretty one and uh that i did apply directly after la undergrad to go to law school and i was fortunate to get into a lot of great schools but i was dating a guy at the time now my husband who was already living and working in new york and so i went to nyu which was a great place to go to law school i think being in the city was a lot of fun i mean i got to hear two supreme court justices like 10 feet away in these small you know seminars type setting so it's a really great three years and i was really on a traditional i'm a pretty you know traditional corporate kind of path right after your second year you work intern at a firm and i did that and i was set to go there upon graduation and then my husband got transferred uh to the southeast and so we moved to raleigh north carolina which we loved um and i joined it from there and doing employment litigation and some general litigation then we started having children and i went back to cut down to part time he was traveling a lot and then when we had our third child it just felt like something had to give and so i pretty unlikely what i would have thought for my life i kind of took time off i always say like i stopped working but i really just stopped getting a paycheck right i was just home slaving away my wife would as well i think that a lot of time or almost every time i've thought always that is more work because you don't have you can't come home from the office you're not taking a break you don't get a breather and it's uh 24 7. so i i definitely resonate with that yeah yeah so i thought that'd be like a two-year stint i ended up being a nine-year stint um which kind of still surprises me but you know time flies when you're having fun or or not so much uh during that time i did write a book and self-publish it more for kind of fun than anything and then maybe it at a hint to an entrepreneurial bent in me uh my husband and i started uh acquiring some residential rental properties and you are kind of our one little niche we did we find single family homes and convert them into duplexes which helped dramatically with the roi but generally like a still pretty corporate path and then it was time kids got older i did the obligatory stint as like the pto president but then it felt like all right time to kind of do something with my law degree because i do love practicing law it's not like you know as you know it's not the movies it's it's research and writing and digging into rags and but i enjoy all that stuff so i went back to a firm a great firm employment happy to be there uh there's one question kind of on that so because i mean first when i get you know hey there's somebody we're gonna want to take care of the kids want to be with them want to help them or help them grow up and then make sure that you have a parent there taking off that time in nine years is you know a great time and i'm sure it's enjoyable and also a ton of work um you know as you know my assumption is but tell me where definitely if i'm wrong you know as kids are growing up getting back to school yeah you know they're otherwise occupied through the day and you decide to you know go back and do an attorney how was it to um you know get back into the practice whether it's fun or is what you remember it is when you previously practiced was it a bit of you know after taking the the time off or at least or not practicing law for that period of time was it a kind of a snark jolt or kind of had that go for it um it was it was i it was more like riding a bike than i thought it came back a lot more quickly and i did i mean caveat i did go back on a part-time basis because the big firm the hour requirements are still difficult with uh the demands of family um but it's been great it's one of those again like you said an unlikely entrepreneur you know it was more likely i would stay in this kind of corporate path and yet i now find myself here on this podcast and and leaving the legal profession at least for the time being so and you did that and i think that's there's probably some truth though you know if you practice the wall you you did a good job if you're a good attorney then there's you know things come back and it takes a little bit to come back back up to speed now you know so as you're you're doing the law firm thing again or at least doing that part time and you know and balancing that with continuing to raise kids and with the family and whatnot and you're doing all that now how did you know the business you're right now which you can get maybe just a brief explanation but you know how did that come about were you looking you wanted to do a startup you were excited about it you're looking for an opportunity was it more just hey i have a great idea that was a happenstance and too good to pass up or kind of how did you come up with the idea and kind of what prompted you to make that transition so i had been looking for the products that i am now making for literally about 10 years kind of since i got to the stage of life where i was regularly taking food to things whether it was the kids thanksgiving functions at school or a potluck with our friends so i've been looking for these products for 10 years and i i can't explain i really in preparation for this podcast really tried to think like what what finally prompted this and i can only blame it on a fugue state during quarantine that i just for whatever reason i'm like all right i'm i'm going with this and i kind of came up with what i think is a great name right away and then got a logo right away and it felt like this idea this lingering desire for these products just kind of snowballed and the more i did the more kind of validated i was in it both uh in terms of my own confidence and it but then as i shared the idea with more people right like getting that external not just my mom telling me it's a great idea but other people right who aren't so vested um but yeah there there was there was no moment other than it was just finally time and i am rolling with it so so now how did you so you pitched on it briefly but you know so you are you have a product you're always looking for you you know you can't find it you're always feel like there's you know a good idea that that's there now how is it to actually take that and start to move it towards an idea in other words hey you know you've done law practice for a while you have experience you have the degree a startup is quite a bit different in the sense that you know there isn't a playbook there isn't a rope set of rules there isn't you know it's not the attorney and billable hour model it's really figuring it out as you go along so as you come up the idea how did you i assume but correct me i'm wrong it started out as a you know even a side hustle and kind of starting that out how did that progress for you yeah so i mean it does get into an interesting you know part of startups i have lived a very um you know kind of task list oriented life and this has been different but the the product concept i have had in its current form really for 10 years so that piece didn't need to develop it was just actually implementing the uh you know actually getting it to be in existence and figuring out the marketing piece and getting websites and things like that set up but they so i feel like in some ways the i i was like i have one of these my one of my little glib takeaways you know almost a year into this is the idea is the easy part right like it's just been everything from the idea that's been harder to put in place no and i definitely agree that you know it's always one where people think oh the idea is the hard part the ideas you know if i just had that one great idea and a lot of times even if it's a reasonable or mediocre idea or it's a you know good idea it doesn't even have to be a great idea it's oftentimes what separates people is the execution and actually doing it and taking those steps you set it up that makes a successful business or not otherwise you have great ideas and never go anywhere so i i think it's kudos to you for to making that jump so now as you kind of say okay i'd like to put the focus on this i think it's a good idea i'd like to get into it how's it going so far has it just been hey i left the law firm do focus on this full-time it's been a rocket ship to the top and it's just been a blast it's been ups and downs it's been you know difficulties it's been how is that all gone or kind of as you've uh now put the focus on it so i think um as any person who's done a startup it's the the highs are high and the lows are low and the day that my first products arrived from china i felt like it was the day like i had a baby like opening the box i couldn't wait to see what this was and it's not like oh it's a bowl um so the the highs have been high and the lows have been low it's been a steep learning curve right i was the one of my favorite quotes not even in this context just generally is you know the greater the larger my island of knowledge the longer my short of ignorance and i feel like that kind of plays out right the more i know the more i realized i don't know like i had no idea that upc's are governed by one entity and you go there and you buy the upc you know that's uh i didn't know that you know i thought oh did you just create these so it's just been the uh a steep learning curve but a fun one but it's you know unlike billable hours where i you know work in six minute increments and have something to show for it and the brief is due and turned in this is like every day passes and i maybe didn't check anything off the to-do list right being proactive on things it's just a different way of living for me no and i i definitely resonate you know resonates and i think that's where a lot of entrepreneurs go through and you know the things you didn't know and i always think that you know things always look much easier on the front end and appear much more much better much more straightforward and then you get in you're like oh there's a lot more here to figure out how to get going so as you've been doing that you know kind of give us some ideas where is where's the business at today do you guys have products you're getting ready to launch products are you still getting manufacturing done still getting things set up you know already been selling for a while but kind of clueless in us to kind of here to take a bit today and give us a big idea because we kind of jumped over what is the product what was the problem you're trying to solve and kind of where you're at today sure so i'll start with the why i've been looking for this for 10 years right i always again you get to a stage in life for most people you get to a stage of life where you're regularly taking food to things and every time it just felt like ridiculously difficult to get it there right either i was taking my tupperware that i got at my bridal shower that's now 20 years old and stained now it did seal well right but it didn't look nice or more often than not i would take a serving bowl and put saran wrap over it which never felt very eco-friendly and also wasn't super functional and so then i would be yelling at a kid not to spill it while we drove uh i've been there and done that multiple times so definitely get up go ahead and then if you're really getting serious you'll take the crock pot which is hot to the touch right still doesn't feel well so then you're it's on the balance on the floor and i'm driving super tenuously hoping it doesn't spill before i get there right so it's like there has to be an easier way to transport food and so what i have created is and is a line of stir wear the original insulated transportable server that addresses all of those things it looks great right it has a contemporary feel to it it has a tight fitting lid which just to me seems like why no one has done it blows my mind and then it's vacuum insulated the vessel itself is vacuum insulated which helps keep the food to the temperature when you put it in there and also means that when it's sitting on your lap uh um in the car on the way to the barbecue your legs aren't getting scalded right because there's nothing worse than like you open it when you get there and that the salad's wilted or the baked beans are like a gelatinous mess right so that's what these are designed to address and so it's been interesting again like one of the learning curves like okay here's the bowl i want just turn it into vacuum insulated stainless steel well of course that's not the process you have to you know get the design features just right to create the space so all of that has has taken longer than i expected um but i'm i have my first production samples and i will really launch at the atlanta smart home and gift trade show in july so shooting for july and so that means that if you're shooting for july that you have you're taking pre-orders or you'll have things manufactured or kind of where or what will you be do or what will you be showing you're having available in july so in july i'll have uh samples available to and then i will be doing a pre-order and again something unique to this moment in time hopefully it's unique is you know the supply chain is so disrupted because of you know cobit and then the increased demand and so i may or may not have product on hand ready to actually to sell in july depending on the timing and how backed up the ports are there's a shortage of plastic of all things like all we hear about is how much plastic there is in the oceans well it's only in the oceans not the factories so that uh it still remains to be seen which is again not how i historically have lived my life right it's been a much more controlled environment where we know when things are happening and i'm a little more at the mercy of other of external forces no and so but so if i were to summarize that barring the potential delays in manufacturing which are outside your control and if there's a short jump platform and i think to that also you know i've we work with on several of my companies you know outsourcing and other things that are in other countries and four countries and some of what we have the products are really great with leather workings in india and they've been hit really hard and even just getting things out and even the shipping and even when they have the product they're ready to ship has been a much more difficult lift than what it otherwise would be so getting all that figured out definitely adds that extra layer of complexity but it sounds like things are well on track and that's exciting that i'm pretty soon here you'll have the um products to sell and be able to actually now bring it out to the marketplace and see how it goes so well with that um that kind of brings us to a bit to where you're at today and even a little bit looking into the future and so with that uh a great transition to ask the two questions i always ask the end of each podcast so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it so the entire thing may be the worst business decision i've ever made right i feel like it's premature for me to to make that uh to make that pronouncement but you know ask me in a year um i think in part because i still was working uh and i still had you know the demands of the family and it's been quarantined i've moved along pretty methodically and some would say slowly on this and so the benefit of that is i haven't made any serious missteps that i know of right i am not the google move fast and break things i am i've been you know kind of plotting along so i don't have any i will say like the entire venture i've just learned so much right every day learn something new about business and supply chain and shipping and tariffs and you know on and on enough well i'm excited to to hear maybe in the future what the mistakes are that you did make and uh what uh what you're like i know i'm making mistakes i just don't know what they are yet it's adding to the list of you know i have this running stuff i wish i knew except it's not stuff that i wish i knew and you know one of this is like what mistakes am i making all right well we'll have to check in a few months and see which uh which mistake you figured out you were making that you didn't realize yet so now i'll ask the second question which is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what be the one piece of advice you give them so again i almost feel like it's premature i don't know that i'm in a position to be dispensing advice but i would say that it's finding a balance between confidence and humility right you need supreme confidence in in your idea and your unique ability to make this idea a reality whether it's product or service whatever at the same time you need humility to know not only what you don't know right like i knew i'm not good at marketing and sales i i need to also recognize there's other stuff i don't even know i don't know and having the humility to bring that on but balancing when i bring in third parties to give advice balancing that with confidence that but i have this great idea and i'm moving it forward and so i think there's that inherent tension between confidence and humility but striking that balance seems really important to being able to move things forward and keeping it in the direction that you envisioned no i i think that is keeping that balance and you know i can add on to that as you know i think that when you get into doing your own thing there's a balance of there's only so much budget there's only so much time you have a lot to get done and that you also can't be the expert on everything you can't do it all yourself and you're you'll never get it done or it'll be so slow and you'll it'll never hit the deadlines you want so finding that balance of where to offload where to have help where to do it yourself where to cut or cut costs where to keep here where to spend the money and all that is always that balance and to always be looking to readjust and to get that balance it's always beneficial to the business so well as we wrap up and there's a reminder before we wrap up that we also do have the bonus question we'll talk a little bit about intellectual property here in just a in a little bit but as we wrap up otherwise um if people are wanting to reach out to you they're wanting to um be a customer they want to be a client they want to be there buy your product they want to be a vendor a wholesaler 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 contact you or find out more sure so um you can email me at bryn b ryn at shopserved.com or just check us out at www.shopserved.com all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out connect up find out more and uh support uh serve this is a pretty cool product so well with that thank you again for coming on the podcast now for all of you the listeners if you have your own journey to tell them you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show two more things as a listener uh one if uh or make sure to click subscribe in your podcast player if you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so other people can find out about all of our awesome episodes last but not least if you ever need help with uh patents trademarks or anything else the business just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time let's chat and we're always here to help so with that now we'll transition over to the bonus uh question portion of the the podcast and appreciate you and uh asking a bonus question and so it's kind of fun to be able to switch gears a bit and be the one that gets to answer the questions instead of ask them and it's always a bit of a different dynamic so with that i'll turn it over to you what's your top intellectual property question sure it's so it's about design patents which is a category i did not even uh was not familiar with a year ago at this time and the lawyer in me is going to frame it up in subparts so kind of question is how detailed and specific can or should design patents be and then kind of the subparts of that are what percentage of patents are designed versus utility patents our design patents more often used defensively like to protect your brand or offensively that people come after you and then how important do you think design patents are for startups uh particularly coming into a competitive or existing robust market so i think there was like five or six questions in there so i don't know if i'm going to remember all of them so i'll try my best so remind me what was the overarching question because i've already forgotten the first question so remind me of that initially how then specific kind of can and should design patents be so yeah so it's a little bit of a and probably a a lawyer answers it depends but with with that you know when you're looking it you were trying to so backing up design patent is one word just for the the audience is that is it protects more of the aesthetic look and feel to a product so it's not necessarily utility it doesn't get into how it functions what is your functionality and kind of how it works that's what a utility patent application is but on the design side it's okay we want to look to protect the unique look and feel to it in other words it has a specific shape the specific curvature proof rides this aesthetic nature and so that's what the design pattern is and so when you're filing a design patent you're showing what your product is and so as far as how detailed or not it should be an accurate and and representation of what your product is because you want the patent to cover that now when it kind of partly to that the question is okay let's say i show exactly what my product is how much coverage do i get does that mean that is some if somebody makes a very small tweak or a very small variation are they going to then design around my patent or do i have some reasonable kind of scope to that and it's not a definitive answer i can't just say well it's a ten percent and then if they change it ten percent i don't even know how you get a percentage in third place but you know it's not necessarily a percentage but if they are reasonably if they are if their product looks like your product and within a reasonable range and i don't know have a hard time experi giving it the exact definition but if it's saying okay because what you'll basically do and isn't if you're to go over to take it into enforcement or decor or even on amazon or other things they're going to take your design pattern in the simplest way the judge will look or pull up your design ban they're going to look at their product and say do they look the same do they don't look the same they look the same or very similar then it's likely covered on your design patent and you'd have the protection there if it's a different look and different design and it doesn't look like yours then it's not so how detailed or not is probably more you want to have an accurate representation of what your product is um and then you're going to be able to if somebody else were to come along and make the same a very similar looking product then it gives you that protection um and i think one of the other questions was a little bit a little bit more on enforcement and enforcement get you know used offensively to use a defensively and a little bit that depends on what is the motivation for the enforcement in other words you can sometimes you'll get a patent it's going to be an investment you're going to get it in so you can get investor dollars you can get people that are going to buy into your business um you can and that one's going to be more of an investment so you don't really in that sense use it offensively or defensively it's just more of an asset that's investable in your business you can also use it as a license in other words you can license it out to other individuals and so when somebody else comes on say i love your product i like to do something with it can i you know can i do something or can i make my own version of it or product line then you can license it out now if you get people that are going to start to rip it off that's going to be we're going to be offensively you have to decide you know when they start to if they're to mimic it rip it off or copy it is to how much are they intruding in the marketplace and how much are they costing you in other words as you know as an attorney but for all the audience you know lawsuits can get expensive they can be long and they can be drawn out and so you have to look and say is there enough of a return on investment for me going to enforce that that's going to make sense if they're only costing me 500 a year in lost sales probably not if they're costing me a hundred thousand dollars in lost sales a year or a month or whatever then it makes where it's worthwhile to go and enforce it because it's having a drastic impact on your business and so on the offensive side it's going to do that on the defensive side and sometimes this also allows you to if other people are out in the marketplace and they want to be able to stop you from doing what you there from making your product or they want to enforce other patents against you it can act as a defense thing i'm not going to go after you unless you come after me but i also do have intellectual property that we have to protect and that we have to for our products so i think i answered most of the questions and some of the subparts but if there's anything else let me know and i can definitely follow up well i think at the very end so you know really as a general rule how important then are design patents for a startup coming into a an existing similar market but that's that's robust with some big players uh but without identical products it depends on how good your design is i mean give you an example if you'd asked apple how or how important a design pattern is they had a huge fight with samsung over the curved corners of the iphone and the circle button in the middle or the bottom of the screen turned out to be a big or big suit they ended up winning and they were able to stop samsung purdue so in that case the design patent was certainly critical to what they're doing because it gave them a defensible edge over samsung on a startup for small business what's that a lack of an edge it was a rounded edge well i said competitive edge but yes no lack of an edge touche um but with that you know your startup or small business it's how you is your design something that's worthwhile to protect in other words does it have that unique look and feel is it something that customers are going to resonate with that's going to give you that competitive advantage or that competitive edge or lack thereof uh but you know is it going to be worthwhile because it's going to do something that is going to set you apart marketplace so the answer is yes but we're going to be able to be a unique looking product people are going to associate with it they're going to want to buy it because it has that cool cool aesthetic nature to it then absolutely it's worthwhile to protect you with your business on the other hand you're saying yeah it's a crowded marketplace we like our look but there's 20 other looks and customers really aren't going to care between our look or anybody else looks then it's a lot less now and that's why i said that's also where you kind of get into that balance of do you go for a design pattern you versus do you go for a utility pen sometimes it's it's absolutely the aesthetic look and feel because that's what sets you apart you're the iphone that has a rounded edges and the bottom circle or circular button in the bottom or button at the bottom and that gives you a competitive advantage and something they're saying it may not be our look and feel maybe our product and what how it works and what it is and how it's shaped and how it's manufactured and those type of things so you always kind of got to do that balance of where is our competitive advantage where is what's proprietary about us what's unique and what are people going to pay for and then let's make sure to protect that and with that we i could talk for intellectual property for a much longer period of time and i'm sure everybody would start to fall asleep because they're saying we've heard enough of the legal stuff we've listened in for the you know for the startup part portion of the podcast but definitely fun questions definitely love to ask and if you or any of the audience has any other questions follow up or any other or any other questions to come or come along as you guys pursue your business feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat we're always happy to help and make sure to answer your questions with that thank you again bryn for coming on it's been a fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next delay of your journey even better than the last thanks so much devin appreciate it have a good one you