Just Get Started
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Just Get Started
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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the biggest piece of advice is just get started and don't get crippled in revision mode and oh i gotta have a business plan and it's gotta be perfect just write the business plan and get it out there get started working so that you can figure out all the answers to your questions i guess i guess the saying is fail fast 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 into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the ceo and founder of miller ip law where he focus on helping startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast laura mcguire and laura went to uh went in north carolina state studied communications and uh she knew she was a good communicator but didn't necessarily know how that would translate into a career so then she started out in a marketing agency and doing that for a period of time and then went to another agency met her husband there um i think you or she was on the finance side her husband's on the creative side it was a match made in heaven and her and her husband figured out one day that they loved to work with small businesses and smaller clients um so decided to kind of split off do their own thing they started 50 50 marketing about three years ago and decided also as one as a project that they were doing to go through the experience of oftentimes what it is like to do a startup or small business so so they've also did um hipstix uh legware it's in addition to their marketing firm and so that kind of is a quick introduction and with that welcome on the podcast laura hey it is so great to be with you i'm excited about this conversation absolutely excited to have you on so i gave that kind of quick 30 second run through of a much longer journey so take uh take us back in time a bit going to college in north carolina state and how your journey started from there yeah it's crazy to hear it back it is it seems like time flies so but fast when you're an adult you know and you've got to take a moment to look back and entrepreneurs who are listening today just take a second today to really think about the awesome stuff you've done because i think we get wrapped up in just the day-to-day and i think you'd mentioned before that it is kind of a lonely journey to be an entrepreneur so sometimes like tonight just pop that bottle of champagne on all the great decisions that you made for yourself over these past years but yeah i i went to college like a lot of uh teenagers you don't really know what to do with your life unless you you know we're a kid and maybe your dad or mom was a doctor and you just knew that was your path like a lot of times we don't know and so i went into college without declaring a major and then soon figured out you know what you're good at along the way and we all we all do that and i think an entrepreneur's journey you can look back and see all those um steps that you took to kind of get where you got all those things that you're good at to make you a good entrepreneur so uh so yeah that's that's how i landed in communications and then there's a lot of ways to go in communications and so that's why i went the advertising agency route and started helping other brands and products um figure out their journey figure out how to be successful on the shelf figure out how to find one you know one question so you came out of college and i think the first marketing agency you got into was cigarettes which i've got to imagine you know people are plenty of people smoking whether you know what it wherever you add as far as you know opinions on that it's certainly an industry that's very controversial so coming out of college how was it to get into an industry and marketing to an industry that is you know controversial or kind of polarizing and was it a good experience did you get because i mean it can be a good experience because they've got to be good at marketing to keep you know keep customers coming back and to catch them or was it one you know give us a bit of an idea of coming out and how that went for you when you dive into that as the initial kind of out of college industry yeah so in 2005 2004 2005 there were a lot of changing changes happening in tobacco so we were up against a lot of challenges um in terms of marketing and maybe the traditional ways were having to go out the window so it was a great first brand to work on because it it had me really thinking about um the customer of the product and how to reach them in not necessarily the typical advertising ways because we were we couldn't do the typical ways so thinking through how do you build an audience and keep them engaged so it was a great first brand to work on at that young at that young age right out of college so now so now you did that for a period of time come out of college get into marketing you know kind of okay i figured out how i'm going to use my communications degree which i think is a great match and a lot of marketing is communicating a message clear you know specifically in a short amount of time and convincing people as to why it makes sense so you did that you know for a period of time and then you went on to was it a different marketing firm kind of what made you decide to to switch marketing firms and what led to that part of your journey yeah so this next marketing firm i went to specialized in launching products and that was really exhilarating to me because it's the ultimate challenge right there's one thing to market a brand that's been around for for many years and they have that built-in brand awareness it's a whole nother set of challenges to work on just a brand spanking new product and to find that total available audience to find that total available market to figure out how are you gonna speak what is your tone gonna be like who is your customer gonna be when are they gonna find you in their consumer journey so there's just a whole other set um of really exciting challenges and that's that experience and being part of those startups whether it be ice cream or beer um or yard products being part of that um helped my husband um and and i say hey we can do this too just like these entrepreneurs we help on a daily basis we can come up with a product um that fills a white space in the marketplace that consumers don't have great you know they don't have a great selection of today and that's where hipstik legwear was born and it's a female um it's a female-driven idea around comfortable hosiery so i'm going to back up just a bit in your journey because that kind of jumped it forward just a bit but so you went you went to the first you know america marketing agency did it for cigarettes after graduation got you know some good training on how to do reach markets do good branding get do the marketing moved over to the other agency now you met your husband that agent before you got into kind of hip sticks and your own agency you would make your husband at that agency is that right yes yes and we were working on projects together and there was just a natural synergy he is a total creative guy he went to school for art graphic design um so he would during these um launching of products he would develop the name he would develop the logo um he would help develop that mission statement for brands um and and so we were on projects together where i was helping project managers projects helping with the strategy and that we were just really clicking and we were hitting on all cylinders for these brands we were working on and so it just a relationship blossomed from there and so we still today work together so that's it works for us to work together because that's how we started definitely makes sense and that's that's kind of funny you know it's you know it gives you an opportunity to work work you know work and balance the the skill sets be able to work together build it or build something together and it led to you guys you know going or striking out on your own and that kind of brings me to the question so you know you meet your husband you guys kind of have the balance of he's on the creative side you're kind of on the finance side you guys both have you know our skill sets to complement each other now as you're doing that what made you decide to branch off or make the leap or you know whatever you want to call it from the current agency that you guys are both working on and say hey let's go do our own thing here let's go start our own agency yeah i think what we were finding is that in that launch phase um there's there's just a lot of needs an entrepreneur comes to the table with a set of skills and they have to do so much that runs outside of their skill set um that every launch product needs smart strategy every launch product needs great marketing not just the big brands and the big guys that can afford it but everybody so we were really finding a lot of heart um with the the entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping who you know had a crazy idea and found a manufacturer and they didn't know anywhere to go with the other pieces of their business like marketing so we said that if we you know come outside of the agency model and um consult and and really keep it skinny to exactly the goals and objectives they have instead of trying to sell them you know other things that they may not need at that moment we could really be efficient for them in terms of um investment and so that's how 50 50 50 50 consulting in marketing and branding was born and today we have clients that span from e-commerce sites to you know business to business the local pest control company um in our city so and all of the all of the skills about launching and marketing a product apply to anywhere from nike to that local pest control company it all needs smart strategy so now one thing on that that i and we'll get into a little bit now where you guys are at but before we dive into that so you guys make the leap you say okay we want to kind of you know we we think we can do it on our own i think that's what most entrepreneurs say i think i can do this i can do it better i can focus on the clients that i want you know any number of reasons to start out on your own you guys do that and you start your own marketing agency now was that from scratch from the ground up did you guys have to from day one start to go find new clients do you have some clients that followed you along was it a bumpy ride was it a rocket ship to the top and hockey sticks straight up or kind of how did that initial kind of launch go when you said hey we're going to go do this on our own we might maybe have an independent contractor or two that could that we're going to hire but really you know was that scary was it exciting was it all the above or how did it go for you yeah there's always an inherent risk to going out on your own um and so yeah we we wanted to build our own base with this new concept of client which was this client that that really needed efficient marketing affordably so we started um just from the ground up and it was it was a slow growth it was not not an overnight success we went into you know something that an idea for entrepreneurs you can go into facebook and join groups and find people who are looking for help who are asking questions and you can help be the answer so we did a lot of that and a lot of just looking into our local marketplace who needs help and joining things like our local mentorship group um which is through a college university where we could connect and meet other entrepreneurs who they could help us and we could help them so it's it's definitely i think we were talking before about how the overnight success stories the forbes articles you read there's so much behind the black and white text that you see if it says um you know mega million dollar company there was so much that went into behind the scenes to get there and and i think we see that glitz and glam and the entrepreneurs and we forget how we just we go into it forgetting how much work it's going to take but that work is totally rewarding because back to your question to not have a boss is to pretty awesome no and i agree and i also agree you know touched on the other point is i think that too often we kind of hear the overnight success stories those are really overnight success 10 years in the making we just don't get to hear either the 10 years behind that everything it took and even if this current company is you know is a new company all of the experience all the time and effort and getting that experience and figuring out how to set it up and getting the right skill set developing you know clientele and everything else is something that you oftentimes don't hear about and yet are the things that make those overnight success that really take ten years in the making so yeah as now as you guys you know so the one other thing you started to touch on and then we jump back a bit earlier into your story was you so you guys are doing 50 50 marketing you're having you're smoking or focusing on startups small businesses kind of giving them the same level of service and everything else that the larger companies are you know can or typically get and so now you guys also decided you know in the midst of that hey to really understand the full client journey you know kind of go through it from start to finish you're going to start your own company which is uh hipstiks right which is for leg wear yes so part of really understanding our customers was doing it ourselves and feeling the same pain of taking the money out of your wallet and spending it and hoping it's roi positive right a lot of marketing is testing so we said let's launch this this product there's definitely a white space there's a need for it i have no background in fashion or apparel but what we do have is background in launching products so we took this pain point that i had as a one that i had as a woman for many years and said this is the product we're going to launch we're going to build an e-commerce website we are going to get on amazon we're going to get on walmart.com we are going to do wholesale we're going to figure out um how to do all of that on the other side um from where we were typically sitting so that we could really empathize with our customer with our clients um and their journeys and we would we would see how painful it was for them to spend money on marketing um to test things and now we know firsthand exactly what it's like and we can use um hipstik legwear almost as a way to test marketing also so we can give that back to our clients we can tell them okay look we tested this idea of affiliate marketing and it works it's all it drives 40 percent of hip stick so we can apply those same strategies to your business and expect to see the same uh results and success so it's been it's been awesome to go through the journey um of actually owning launching marketing our own products so we can be that much more empathetic to our clients no that definitely makes sense you know it's kind of the in a much different you know different avenue that's what i've done so a lot of my clients with miller ip law we work with a lot of startups small businesses with patents trademarks and whatnot and i also have done several startups small businesses i have some that are still kind of just our family businesses are more fun kind of hobby businesses one which i get my son works at and has you know gets there and a little bit of side money other ones have been you know much bigger businesses that have now grown i used to say eight figure it's actually nine figure now um but you know so i've gone on both sides of spectrum but the point was is that having done those businesses on that side of it helps me inform you know kind of the le or the legal advice i give and strategy that you form on the the legal side in other words hey yes there's a legal side and i can tell you all the legal aspects and how it works and why it makes sense but the end of the day you need to know how it works for your business from the is this going to give a return on investment is it worthwhile to proceed where should i spend the money where should i not you know what would you recommend and there's that kind of that business overlay so in a different context i definitely agree with you that you know kind of going through that client journey and seeing the other side of the aspect the business side and what they're going through definitely makes sense and i think it informs a much better opinion so um i think that's admirable that you you took that you and your husband took your leap so now that kind of brings us up to where you're at today you know a little bit you're still doing the marketing agency 50 50 marketing you're also doing hipstik if you're to kind of now look out kind of six 12 months in the future where do you see things heading and kind of what's the next steps for you guys yeah so now we treat hipstic like a client we allocate time to them like we do our other other clients when we take on a client we make sure that we have the bandwidth to do that so we are working with this really awesome online nursery called plantingtree.com and so we've been working with them to help them grow um their business through covid they saw a huge uptick you know people at their homes looking at their yards and and wanting to bring some life to their yards so we are working on helping them grow and then we take on and they're the full scope of marketing um we do we do uh almost like their in-house marketing agency and then we take on you know down the road several months from now we'll take on projects just for packaging um packaging work or we'll take on projects just for helping someone with a logo or we'll take on projects that are just affiliate marketing so say someone wants to they don't have that capability now and they want to get into it we can take that on as a project so we will continue um continue to be excited about the new brands that come our way and we laugh because every client that we take on it seems like we get crazy passionate about it we can our yard now is like just shazam and with all the guard with all the plants and trees we've added to it because of our client or like i remember back when i had ice cream and beer oh my gosh i gained so much weight during that time we're we are obsessed with our clients we talk about it at dinner um so it is it's it's exciting that our whole lives revolve around uh branding and marketing and it's just super fun well that is awesome that that's kind of uh it makes it fun when you can or find projects you're passionate about you can dive in you know almost kind of become part of the family at least for a period of time and really establish that relationship makes it for i'm sure funding makes it very fun and rewarding so well now as we kind of have gone through a bit of your journey and we've even looked a bit to the future i always ask two questions towards the end of each journey so we'll jump to those now and before we dive to that just as a reminder for the audience and listeners we will hit on the bonus question we talk a little bit more about intellectual property so if you want to learn more a little bit more about that stay tuned after the normal episode wraps up but otherwise we'll jump to the two questions right now so 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 yeah i thought long about that because you you and i had talked about that and it's the worst decision i made was in year one with hipstik where i thought we were just gonna catapult i thought that i was going to put a brand on the internet and even with all my marketing experience and knowledge and knowing that you got a market market market i thought that it was just going to be an overnight success and that and i realized that year that that mindset that i had was keeping me from other opportunities so that that the biggest mistake was thinking that it was going to be easy and i don't mean to be i don't mean to say i don't mean to sound like so hard but it is not easy and it is going to take work and it's going to take time and you've got to spend your time very wisely um to get things moving uh to test and see so so that that that was the challenge year one and i i woke up one day and realized what i was doing mentally to squash the success of hipstik in that mindset no and i think that you know it definitely makes sense and it does it takes a lot of time and effort and patience and perseverance and you know it's still oftentimes don't it's almost replaced back a little bit to what you were saying on the you know or what we were talking about a little bit as far as overnight success and that's kind of you know you watch the movies you see the tv shows you read the books and you kind of oftentimes get that false sense of security oh this is going to be simple it's going to be easy it's going to take off it's not that hard you get into it it's a lot of time work and effort and perseverance and i think having that grit and that determination to see it through can make a big difference so definitely makes sense so now i'm going to jump to my second question which is if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them i would say just start just start the hardest part is starting and if you've got an idea don't let yourself think oh that idea has already been done that url is taken i can't find a name it's not going to work out i'm not going to find an audience you don't know any of that just start and start to test things make lots of decisions very quickly and to get it out there so that you can start seeing who your audience is going to be what marketing tactics are going to work uh what channels you're going to sell best in maybe you start an e-commerce site and really wholesale is where it's gonna head i mean you're gonna see the greatest success so the biggest piece of advice is just get started and don't get crippled in revision mode and oh i gotta have a business plan and it's gotta be perfect just write the business plan and get it out there get started working so that you can figure out all the answers to your questions i guess i guess the saying is fail fast no i think so and i think you know it's interesting you know i think now we're up on 200 plus episodes i'd have to look at the exact number but we hit over 200 recently and you know i asked the same questions and the first one of you know what was your biggest uh you know worst business decision that one's always different and even the second question which is you know well it's the one piece of advice but the most common ques answer to that and you know we don't talk about before i try and keep the the answer you know give everybody the opportunity to answer the question but it naturally on its own getting started getting started earlier trying it out you know some variation that is a number one answer and i think that is interesting that shows such a commonality of everybody that does it everybody that's looking to get started is really um wanting to get or want you know once you do it you find out how much you love and how passionate you are and so that gives you the opportunity to look back and say i wish it started earlier i wish i'd done this and so i think that that's just is it interesting how often that correlates between a lot of different industries a lot of different people a lot of different journeys it seems so easy but it is the heart it's the hardest it's easy to say but hard to do just start no completely agree so well perfect well now as we're wrapping up and again we'll have the bonus question we'll talk a little bit about intellectual property in just a minute um but before that um as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to contact you they want to be a client they want to be a customer they want to be a employee they want to be an investor they want to buy a hip stick they want to check it out 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 it's super easy it's we are 5050.com that's w-e-a-r-e-5050thenumbers.com and you will find all of our contact information there if you want if you're more on the creative side you want to reach out to jason he's there you can reach out to me laura we are 5050.com all right well i definitely encourage everybody to reach out um check it out and whether it's your you know you want to buy some hipsticks you want to looking for a great marketing agency the focus is on the start of small business or any other reason definitely worthwhile to check out um so as we wrap up the normal part of the episode and stay tuned for the the bonus question thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now as a listener a couple things if you have if you want to be a guest on the podcast share your journey we'd love to have you on so let's go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the podcast two more things as a listener one make sure to click subscribe in your podcast players so you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so new people can find out about all of our awesome episodes last but not least if you have any uh help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business go to strategymeeting.com we always are here to chat and to help out so as we now wrap up the normal part of the podcast i always enjoy this because this is kind of a fun place where we get to talk a little about intellectual property which is obviously a passion of mine and also i get an opportunity to uh your you get an opportunity to flip the tables and i don't get asked the questions now i can answer the question so with that i turn it over to you what's your top intellectual property question yes so as part of our journey we wanted to patent hipstik legwear we wanted to go through that process and we had no experience doing that process it took many many years and where we have ended up is at a place where we we had to abandon our application our the patent office said you know sorry there are there's too much likeness out there even though we had done the searches we had done the searches we had written a really strong application where it comes to a to the end or what we think is the end is having to abandon what are our options now is it really over or do we have other options where we can continue to try to achieve a patent or for our product um yeah it's a hard question and because i mean i get it in one sense you know i in depending on the attorneys and full disclosure i wasn't an attorney on this patent but what i always counsel clients is you know typically you're going to even we do it uh patent searching for a lot of our clients and some of them off not to do it and there are reasons not to and there are reasons to do it but regardless you know patent search it gives you an idea a good idea of what the you know what the landscape is out there but it's not a guarantee and said one there is you know opinions that are doing it and we you know attorney can view one way the examiner can view it another way and they each have their different ways of viewing it and so you may say no we disagree with you and at the end of the day you still have to convince the examiner to get it allowed and so you know that back and forth so as a side note for anybody's going through the process usually i'd anticipate at least one to two rounds of back and forth with an examiner to try and get it in that condition for allowance and to get them comfortable in a place where they can they're willing to allow it but even at that you know you can do a great application you can do a searching and sometimes either search didn't turn it up or you can't convince the examiner it gets to the point that it's either too expensive to keep going back and forth or you're saying it's too close and we're not it looks like it's a low likelihood that we're going to have success and so kind of with all of that you know then you have to look at them and say as you said is it worthwhile to invest in is it worthwhile to keep going or right now we don't have the funds we don't have the money or it doesn't make sense and we're going to let it go abandon so with all that as a setup to your question if you let it go abandon most of the time it's going to be difficult or near impossible to go back and kind of revive that now there are exceptions if it was truly unintentional meaning hey we didn't get the notices our attorney didn't let us know or we didn't you know there was some extenuating or really you know out of the ordinary circumstance you can do a revival on your patent you say hey this was unintentional it wasn't we didn't mean to abandon it but if on the other hand you made an intentional decision hey we're not going to pursue this any further that's typically not an avenue the only and so once it's abandoned so i'll back up there's two ways to depending on how it was originally filed you can do what's called a non-publication request and that basically means unless we get a patent that's issued as a patent this never becomes publicly available knowledge and in that case it gives you the ability to some sometimes go back and refile now the other issue is is that if you've had something out in the marketplace for more than a year so you've been offering it for sale you've been putting it out on a website or anything else of that nature you have a one-year time clock ticking from the time you put it out in the public so there's a few different things that are kind of the dynamics one is how long has it been out in the public it's been out for more than a year and then you let your patent go abandon you're not going to have many avenues it's been out for less than a year and you had a non-publication request there's a possibility to revive it and go back and file it again if it was an unintentional abandonment you may be able to go and give the reasons why it's unintentional go and revive it let's say you didn't qualify any of that you just simply let it go abandoned then you're is there really is very little avenue unfortunately to go back and recapture what you let go abandon that's one of the drawbacks of letting it go abandon the only thing you can do is now looking towards the future you can say if we're in or continuing to innovate a lot of times companies will do generation of the product generation one then two and then three and then four so generation one maybe that's what you originally filed on and said that's abandoned we can't go back and capture it but you can still go after the things that may are different in generations two or three or four or whatever so you're capturing the new innovations the things that are making it improving and making it better you can still go after that so a lot of times if you let something abandon you're not able to capture that anymore then i would look more towards what are we doing now what have we done since that patent was filed and focus on that so a lot of variables that go into that kind of gives you a quick synopsis of a much longer discussion and with that we'll go ahead and wrap up for the the podcast and thank you again for the question it's always fun to talk a little bit about ipe and thank you for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you thanks so much for having me it was fun [Music] absolutely you