During the spring of 2011, designer, Mike Fajen began commuting 13 miles on bike to work in downtown Portland, OR. What he quickly found was that the wind noise was often so loud that he experienced several near misses because he couldn’t hear important sounds around him. Mike found himself arriving to work rattled. One day, he became so frustrated with the noise that he wrapped socks around the front straps of his helmet. The difference the socks made was astounding. Mike could suddenly hear the surrounding sounds -- most importantly, traffic.
After a few months with and without the socks, it became clear that this concept needed to be developed and introduced to the market. He approached partners and formed a company. They began to experiment with various designs and arrived at a product that maintained the full effectiveness with a much smaller profile than socks.
They then recruited a number of testers for feedback. The feedback was exactly what Mike experienced -- the product makes a huge difference, eliminating most of the wind noise. Months after the trials, testers still wear their Wind-Blox. With approximately 700 deaths and 50,000 hospitalizations each year -- in the U.S. alone -- due to traffic related accidents, we feel a duty to promote any practice that advances an earlier awareness of approaching vehicles.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
To get ourselves started we contacted some impartial testers, and after giving enthusiastic reviews, they bought Blox for their friends. A local business began manufacturing with us and also helped us make a preliminary website. This encouraged us to try a Kickstarter campaign which was successful, so we started looking for a viable online presence. Friends in the web design business led us to Shopify and Amazon. After opening both storefronts, we’ve been especially pleased with Shopify.
We pair social media (tweeting as @WindBloxSports, Facebook as Wind-Blox and Pinterest as Wind-Blox Sports) with a few paid ads on google as well as using face-to-face and phone marketing.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
The Shopify app is excellent! We also like the Twitter, google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Kickstarter apps. Our business creates physical products so apps are not as useful for us as they might be for those who make software or virtual platforms.
With the outpouring of support we received from our Kickstarter, we realized that we’d need help with fulfillment. A local company handles our shipping for us, which has kept the product moving at a good pace.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
We recommend getting some great partners who believe in your product and also pay for some quality coaching. The company that began our initial manufacturing continues to be in our corner encouraging us and we’ve begun working with a professional marketer who has given us great insight.
Our time interacting with other professionals at Toastmasters has helped us refine our pitch and approach.
For us, attending the Storyline Conference along with a startup incubator (Portland TenX) have both been valuable.
While Shopify and Amazon have helped us with visibility, personalized coaching has also been really important.