Refine The Product Or Service
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Refine The Product Or Service
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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refine the product um always work on refining the product making the product the best version of itself because ultimately that's what's gonna bring people or service sorry um product or service you know that's what's gonna bring people through the door get people interested and um you know have people wanting to invest or uh you know wanting people to or having people buy out your company [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 and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast ben wood um so ben uh growing or growing up in high school decided he wanted to be a dentist didn't really know why i think it was just because it sounded like it was a good career that he would be able to have a good lifestyle went on a um an lds mission or a mission for the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints did chinese speaking came back from his uh religious mission and studied a bit in school started an e-commerce brand importing chinese goods sold that business started a new brand in toys and games category and e-commerce sold that business as well then started his current business where he and the owners um do a lot of things with brands on amazon and then that's been completely self-funded and maybe looking into doing a bit of vcs but or maybe may have had some vc offers but wanting to stay independent at least for now so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast ben thank you very much dev and i'm glad to be here i am it's an honor for me so thank you absolutely so i just took a much longer journey and condensed it into 30 seconds so why don't we unpack that a bit so tell us a little bit about how your journey got started in high school wanting to be a dentist yeah so you know i actually um i've said this many times before you know i i wanted to be a dentist because i i had a few family friends that were dentists and it seemed like they were doing well you know i didn't really know what it what really it required to become a dentist i just thought you know what they're making a lot of money this could be interesting but i didn't even think of the uh the time that's invested i knew i was aware of it but i didn't really you know think that in depth um into this industry or into that uh career path and so ultimately you know um i don't even uh i don't even know if i'm worthy of saying that i really wanted to become a dentist i just wanted to do something that that you know put me in a good spot financially and so you know in high school that was kind of on my mind i was also playing sports um and so that's kind of all i was thinking about as well and hanging out with friends so i didn't really have a lot of direction um but i did end up you know i i ended up getting a an lds mission call and i was called to brisbane aust australia to speak mandarin chinese and so that was kind of a a big pivot moment for me where you know i then had a valuable asset that i could offer to people which was the chinese and there are so many different things um from translating or to importing products you know all over the spectrum as far as uh that language use goes and so um you know from high school not really knowing what i wanted to do i went on this church mission and then from there you know i had a really good time started learning chinese uh and that was you know as soon as i got back from my lds mission i was exposed to sourcing products from china and i had made some connections in australia that kind of gave me um a good head start to you know figuring out how to source these products from china and they introduced me these connections in australia introduced me to a couple factories in china where um i started working on my first project and it was a it was a clothing company um in 2000 15 2016 beginning of 2016. it was a clothing company that um you know i i was trying to target the chinese market as my consumer but it was so hard logistically to manage all of it from the us and so it really didn't last long so that led into this men's accessory brand um that i started in 2016 as well and that my uh main computer in the united states and that started to pick up um i was able to source uh several different great designs and products that we conceptualized and designed ourselves and manufacture those at cost and then bring them here to the us and distribute to several retail stores um and then got into you know we had our own website where we were selling so we were very involved in e-commerce and in the paid ad space and then we let me just dive into one question as you're going along now help eric just kind of set the stage for me was this hey i was doing this as a side hustle while i was in college or dropped out of colleges this was massively successful well i decided after the mission i didn't want to go to college and i wanted to do this first or kind of what was that path that year how did that mean yeah yeah so yeah there's definitely a ton to dive into there so i um i went on my mission came back and a good family friend hired me as a plumbing assistant and so i was you know assigned to do all the dirty work of you know crawling through crawl spaces and and cleaning up all sorts of messes and i um you know i was making 15 bucks an hour right off of my mission and it wasn't uh what i wanted to do you know i was saving up for school and ultimately i ended up going to school at um byu idaho for a semester and then i transferred to weber state and then i ended up transferring to byu but prior to getting to byu while i was at weber state i had started that second company which was that men's accessory brand and um there was definitely a lot of hiccups on that journey but you know i realized um quickly you know we can sell x amount of products uh per day then i don't have to work as a plumbing assistant and so that was kind of my first goal and um so i was able to quit that job and i really only you know the first investment that i made into um that first brand it was like 500 bucks worth of worth of inventory and um from there it started to snowball and get a little bit more you know we were making uh substantial purchase orders as we started to grow but um yeah so i went to weber state and my goal was to get into byu i didn't have the grades from high school to get into byu initially right off the mission so um i you know i worked hard in college at the same time of creating this first company and i finally was able to get into byu which was great but after the first week of attending brigham young i um you know i i'm i didn't have time to go to school and run this company that i had started a year prior and so you know it was funny because i worked so hard to get into byu but ultimately after the first week i ended up dropping out of of college and pursuing that men's accessory company full-time um and so that was kind of you know that was the uh that was also a very pivotal moment for me when i could focus solely on this e-commerce brand or e-commerce retail brand that i was building for the last year no i think that makes sense you know and i think everybody sometimes college is absolutely the right path and people are saying hey this is i want to have a degree so i can go in this field another time you're saying hey i have a different opportunity that lines up with my interests i'd rather do that and it makes more sense and so you take the other path and sometimes it works out awesome another time you say okay i'll go back to college and not you know but i think that having that mentality if i don't have to be locked into one or one path that is a typical path but here you know i can take it or take time to actually you know pursue what i want to do and have that career definitely makes sense now one thing i'll just hit on because you started a couple before you do the the business that you're doing now and we'll talk to that in just a minute you stole both of the e-commerce uh brands at one point right so you originally had the importing of chinese goods that you sold and then you also had the one before the current company which was kind of in the um toys and games and some of the other ones that you did with each of those sell you know selling of those brands was that hey i built it to a point i think i can sell it and then you know i'd rather pursue this or hey it's on the downturn let's make some money and get out before it goes to you know goes to the bottom or kind of what was the motivation for selling those along the way yeah so just to clarify the first one was a men's accessory brand and these these are so i had one prior to that which is a clothing brand uh that was the like chinese facing you know uh our goal was to have these chinese consumers buy our product but it didn't that was a complete failure but the one after that the men's accessory brand that was here in the united states that was you know we did pretty well um and the what led to selling that company was i felt like i brought it to its highest point because while i was running that that company i was also at another startup that um that helps companies with uh like ppc management and amazon advertising management so stuff like that so my buddy started that company i joined him just for a little bit while i was at this other while i was running my own e-commerce company and so you know it got to the point where i launched 60 or in total probably like 75 products or so under our under our man's accessory brand and we put it in several retail stores we had our own website we had a ton of organic traffic and we were also on amazon and amazon was kind of the giant as far as sales go uh amongst all of our sales channels you know we were making the most money from amazon and so um it made sense to sell the company because i brought it to its highest point or highest potential highest ceiling that i could bring it to so from there um sold that company and ended up uh using those funds you know some of those funds to have some startup capital or an infusion of cash into this new brand which um was a toys and games company and so i launched that toys games company and um [Music] scaled that up fast and it was a similar thing um the first brand the men's access accessory one had for about two years and eight months the second one it was actually it was a little bit of the same thing but we are selling exclusively on amazon so what happened was our cells were growing so much on amazon we had one of the you know e-commerce giants of amazon um offer to buy our company and because you know it was at a point where like i i felt like i brought that company to [Music] its ceiling but it also had a ton of potential where if it was in the right hands it could get into retail you know target and walmart and all these other avenues and so for me it made sense to sell that company at the time and again that kind of you know that was um a big blessing for me because i was able to use that as startup capital for ultimately this business now which is angora and um you know and as you know we haven't had to take on any funding we've had several offers but we've been able to be self-funded up to this point so no and i think that's a good walk through because it's interesting you know when what what motivates people to selling is different sometimes you're saying i'm worn out i don't want to do this anymore sometimes saying hey i've taken it to the point that i can take it and if somebody you know to take it to the next level is beyond what i able to do or even what i want to do sometimes you're saying you know there are people and i'm probably you know a lot like that is if the fun is the building the brand the fun isn't figuring it out the funders are getting it going and then when it becomes a grown-up business so to speak that some of that funds lost you're saying i'd rather continue to do that as an avenue or they're just another or something else i'd like to pursue or the timings are and there's just so many different things that factor into so it's always kind of fun to hear that so now you've jumped over to where you're at today which is you know the current business and maybe this help explain kind of you know so you you started your own e-commerce brands for you know a few different lines sold those off so i think this one's still related to amazon but in brandy and that but it's also helping other people on amazon is that right yeah totally so this is what's interesting about our business is we sell exclusively on amazon as a company so we are an e-commerce portfolio that sells only on amazon but what we've done is we've opened up our portfolio to the public so really anyone can invest in our portfolio um right now we have about we have just over 50 brands on amazon that we have ownership in but our clients also have ownership in these brands um it started was you know we initially we wanted to uh essentially flip uh amazon listing so if you've ever gone on amazon do you shop on amazon i do i do fairly frequently i would say most people have at least shopped on amazon at one point or another but i'm certainly not the exception i'm on amazon as well yeah yeah so if you go onto amazon and you look up a red spatula you're going to see the gingen result page of red spatulas and each of those spatulas uh constitutes a listing so that's a product listing if you will and so the way we started was we were building these product listings and we would scale them for about three months and then when we would sell them so we we would invest you know our own money into these listings so i would invest you know 10 grand into the inventory design the conceptualization of the product um and developing the listing and then we'd run it for about three months where we got it to the point of you know over 10k a month consistently just as one listing and then we would sell it and oftentimes the multiples were so high uh just for one little asset like that was you know it was because uh e-commerce is just such a trending marketplace right now in industry for a lot of investors so you know we would sell it for 60 to 70k and um and we started doing this more and more and so we started building kind of this business model where we were flipping these listings but we we uh quickly realized that there wasn't a ton of long-term incentive for us you know we build it up and then we sell it and then you know it's done uh so what we thought and the turnaround time for building and selling those those listings was also it took several months and so we decided that instead of selling these listings to our clients why don't we partner with our clients and we build these listings we build all of these brands and just scale them and in exchange we get you know a split of the profit on a monthly basis and we also hold equity and all these different brands so for us you know that had there was a lot more long-term value with that business model instead of just creating these high value assets and then selling them off we are you know we're partnering with these people they come to us we build everything because we're really good at it and we we source everything we design everything and then we launch it on the amazon marketplace and we do it pretty fast and we hold equity in that business um lifetime of the business and our clients have the option to continue to expand their product lines or to sell it off to a buyer similar to the way i did with the previous brands that i owned oh no i think that's that's a fun and i always like when you're seeing a bit of an experimentation or different model in the marketplace that uh it's a lot of times we'll align you know interest and and pulling together in the same direction and also it gives everybody a bit of skin in the game so i think that's awesome so well that kind of brings us up into a bit of where you're at today and it's always a good time to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of each podcast and so now as we kind of talk through your journey 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 yeah so you know that's that's a really good question i've made so many horrible decisions while trying to run these businesses but i would say the one of the most um influential ones that kind of had the most control um on my first business was choosing or being so eager to choose a business partner you know i was uh i was super young i was 20 years old when i started that first company and i was sorry that second company and i was um i was so eager to choose a business partner because there was so much unknown for me there was so much uncharted territory that i was not exposed to prior to that and so for me i just wanted to choose a business partner that didn't offer really any funding or any expertise i just did it because i was i was eager to to just have someone that would share the burden with me so i would say you know always be cautious with who you're choosing as your business partner i think it's important to develop a really good product first and then you know you can add people to the team and and decide who a partner should be from there um and even with my second or third company from that point um i i was again you know kind of i wanted something to share the burden with and so i was uh i was eager to add a business partner onto the team but i ultimately um waited until it made sense until you know we either needed more expertise or more funding because those are really the two um assets that someone can bring as far as you know people that deserve equity in a company and so i i definitely suggest you know be very cautious about um who you make a business partner no no and i think that's great piece of advice in the sense that you know a lot of times first of all i think at least and i'm absolutely guilty is a lot of times you go in thinking hey everybody is going to work as hard as i am they're going to be diligent they're going to be as dedicated they're going to you know want to build this and sometimes that's absolutely true and other times you bring out partners and they haven't been in the trenches with you or they're doing this as a side hustle or they don't you know they're not as dedicated or a myriad of other things and it just can create that you know partnerships oftentimes you dive into it much more quickly than you should because you make a lot of those assumptions and if you get ones where the assumptions are wrong it can make that running their business and having that partnership a lot more difficult so i think that that you know choosing the business partner that is aligned if you're going to bring on sometimes you're just saying hey i'm not cut out don't want to do a business partner just want to do it on my own but if you're looking to bring out a business partner maybe to offset your talents or come on as an investor or whatever the reason i think looking at them and making sure taking the time to actually make sure it's a good partnership you know gonna be a good relationship definitely pays off so i think that's great piece of advice second question i always ask 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 yeah so um that's also a great question because there's so many things but at the end of the day you know i think the best thing that you can focus on as a young startup founder or even if you just joined a startup is to refine the product um always work on refining the product making the product the best version of itself because ultimately that's what's going to bring people or service sorry product or service you know that's what's going to bring people through the door get people interested and you know have people wanting to invest or uh you know wanting people to or having people buy out your company there's uh i think there are so many um mistakes that happen in the startup world especially here in utah where people want to seek funding prior to even even having a product and so they give away part of their company prior to even having a tangible product that that has um real life use cases so uh i yeah i would suggest you know always always work on the product first even if you don't have a ton of funding um just work on what you can with your current resources and like i said that's what you know with us at angora that's what we did we started as a business that would flip these listings and we got so good at creating these e-commerce assets that scale super fast and they get to sustainable revenue fairly quickly um and then you know we started selling them that gave us more funding and that also proved our product you know we were able to refine our expertise our skills our launch sequences on amazon and ultimately what i created was um this super valuable product which now we uh like i said we've we've got this massive well it's it's a pretty big portfolio but it's growing really fast and it's continuing to grow very fast um every single week and so because of because of us focusing on the on the product first and everything else second excuse me we were able to uh grow super fast and so we worked on the product and now you know we've been able to sell it to so many people and now we have thousands of products in our queue that are that are ready to be launched and um now we have people approaching us saying hey we want to buy 20 of your company hey we want to buy 50 of your company or you know vc's wanting to invest and so it's it's been a very cool experience for us um and it's all happened because we refined the product first and then added on everything else that comes with a startup second so like i said sorry that was a long answer but you know ultimately um focus on the product first you know product is number one no and i think that's or service depending on which industry but i think focusing on that first figuring it out and actually getting a product or service that you're gonna sell is you know it's a proper order rather than looking at so much of hey i got an idea now i'm gonna go get money in there i got to do an ipo or got to get investors or anything else putting that initial focus on hey what am i going to sell whether it's a product or service and how am i going to sell it is the place that you need to start because that's really what the business is going to live or die on in the hit in the end and ultimately so a great piece of advice so now if people want to reach out to you if they want to be a customer they want to be a client 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 to you contact you find out more yeah so uh first you can go to the or website it's anguard.solutions if you want to get in touch with us um there's there's several uh contact forms on there and then if you want to contact me personally my linkedin is just benjamin wood and you'll see two chinese characters next to my name that's how you can find me and then uh instagram ben32 would if you're on that i'm there as well and so yeah any if anyone wants to reach out please feel free always happy to answer questions and help when i can all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out make connections and uh and get to know ben even better if nothing else make a new best friend well with that thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure 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 we'd love to have you just feel free to go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the show a couple more things as a listener make sure to subscribe share and uh and otherwise uh make sure that you support the podcast because we love sharing everybody's journeys last but not least you ever need help with your patents trademarks or anything else in the business so feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat and we're always here to help thank you again ben for coming on the podcast and wish the next level journey even better than the last awesome thanks devin have a good one [Music]