In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed two-time Kickstarter creator and the inventor of multiple products, Sam Wechsler. Looking to reduce the number of cooking gadgets in his home, Sam developed innovative kitchen tools, such as CoffeeClip and TeableSpoon, to save space and time. The CoffeeClip and TeableSpoon are measurement devices built into clips and spoons for all your coffee and baking needs. Learn how Sam, supported by 300 backers, surpassed his initial Kickstarter funding goal of $10,000 for CoffeeClip, Spoontula and TeableSpoon XL6.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How Sam’s engineering mindset transformed throughout his entrepreneurial career
  • The design inspiration and prototyping process behind CoffeeClip and TeableSpoon XL6
  • Insight into how Sam’s childhood kick-started his entrepreneurial spirit
  • How Amazon is expected to turn business around for Sam​ after a net loss
  • What, according to Sam, is the big picture business concept behind his culinary multi-tools

Links

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Sponsors

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome entrepreneurs and startups to Art of the Kickstart, the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch. I’m your host Roy Morejon, president and founder of Inventus partners. The world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2000 innovations successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010. Each week I interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level. This show would not be possible without our main sponsor ProductHype, a 300,000 member crowdfunding media site and newsletter that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over a thousand top tier projects since 2017. Check out producthype.co. Just to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I’m honored to be joined with Sam Wechsler, the two-time creator on Kickstarter and the inventor of multiple products. First campaign was the tablespoon XL first campaign, and now recently just finished with the coffee clips, spoon chiller and the tablespoon XL6 to simplify the cooking experience. So Sam I’m really excited to have you on the show today. Thank you for joining me.

Sam Wechsler:
Hey. Thank you Roy. Glad to be here.

Roy Morejon:
So yeah Sam, we’ve been working together for a long time, but I really want to know and I think our audience wants us to start about… Let’s talk about your background and what led you to being an entrepreneur.

Sam Wechsler:
That’s a good question. Okay. My background is in engineering actually, electrical engineering. And I’ve always been an entrepreneurial person since I was about seven years old. Yeah. The first time… I still remember the first time I ever sold anything and that was at an agricultural fair. When I was about seven my dad had burpee seeds. We lived in Southeast Pennsylvania, near burpee seed company and he got burpee seeds and my brother and I would sell the seed packets for a dollar a piece at the agricultural fair. And ever since then I thought it’s kind of neat to sell stuff. So when I was in high school I would sell sodas on the school bus… and middle school sodas on the school bus. And what else would I do? I’d sell snacks, glow sticks for 4th of July and things of that sort. So I’ve always been of the entrepreneurial mindset. And yeah, kind of always wanted to invent things and that led me to engineering and I think that’s most of it.

Roy Morejon:
So I think a lot entrepreneurs follow that path especially when they’re kids. Was there a particular time when you knew you wanted to take that trek down the entrepreneurial path full time?

Sam Wechsler:
Yeah. Well, I’ve kind of always known since then. Both my parents have their own businesses and yeah, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing to be honest with you. Now, when I was an engineer in my twenties I started a couple businesses that didn’t do very well. They were failures for the most part. And then I bought a property and fixed it up and rent it out to students so I’m doing pretty well with that. So that at that point I more or less bought that so I can go off and do my own thing, which I’ve been doing now for about three years. And I’m doing okay, it’s not like I’m… I’m not Josh Malone with bunch of balloons to put it that way, but…

Roy Morejon:
None of us are. Right Sam?

Sam Wechsler:
But my wife has a good job. She’s also an engineer and we’re doing pretty well overall. But yeah, it’s kind of like I got the rental property so I can explore and experiment and kind of pitch new products, do some kickstarters and that’s it more or less.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Well tell me… Let’s tell the audience a little bit about your products and what problems you were trying to solve with them.

Sam Wechsler:
Yeah. All right. So a couple of years ago I was baking one night and here’s the problem. I started putting the recipe together and mixing in the bowl and then I had to measure teaspoons and tablespoons of sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, et cetera, and then I was looking around. At the time I had… My son was around only a couple… he was a couple of years old and he was being put to us to bed by my wife so I didn’t want to ask her where are the teaspoons and tablespoons, and I thought, man. So my baking that night went to crap and I had to… I was thinking, this is such a dumb problem to have. Why aren’t these just built in… Why aren’t there cooking multi-tools? Why aren’t teaspoons and tablespoons just built in to existing products.

Sam Wechsler:
So I did some brainstorming and sketching and I thought, well, the first one that popped to mind was a stirring spoon. That’s already built, it’s out of wood, it’s this long thing, why not just put a tablespoon and teaspoon in the spoon. So I built that and that was the first teablespoon. I made a couple. At the time I was just getting to know Brian Freed. He’s also on the UIA board like you Roy, or he was. And yeah, he was trying to get me to push these cooking tools because we thought we could license them, which ended up not happening unfortunately. But anyway, the cooking tools for cooking tools… there’s a market for cooking gadgets and whatnot. Anyway, I’m going off unattended here. What was your question again?

Roy Morejon:
Now, talking about more about the product and the problem you are solving and some of that inspiration to create it.

Sam Wechsler:
Yeah. I just thought of solutions to the problem essentially. The problem is not being able to find teaspoons and tablespoons in the kitchen. And I thought of various things I could integrate them into. Another one was the spatula. So I thought well, on either side of a standard silicone spatula it’s just kind of wasted room. And so I put a teaspoon and tablespoon spoon into them to the spatula. And then there are existing clips out there that clip a bag of coffee and you can measure with them, but they have their issues so I designed this single piece injection molded, polypropylene coffee clip. The coffee clip has a lot of benefits to it. First of all, it’s all one piece and it’ll fit into most spice jar, so you can not only measure coffee, you can measure sugar, you can measure cinnamon, you can measure anything in a spice jar.

Sam Wechsler:
Essentially, most of these things don’t fit in a spice jar. But it also clips bags and it can be mass manufactured because it’s a single piece and that’s the coffee clip. So that’s the latest one. And the whole concept here is like an… It’s not a new concept. It’s this concept of culinary multi-tool. So there’s been a couple out there. Joseph and Joseph have this tool called the uni tool and it has… I don’t know. It has pretty good ratings on Amazon. I can’t remember the exact number but yeah, that’s the concept, culinary multi-tool.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So Sam when you were creating these products, let’s talk a little bit about that process, right. How did you go about deciding what features to include in the designs, what materials and then some of the challenges that you encountered when designing products?

Sam Wechsler:
Well, I prototype them myself. I have access to a Makerspace. I’m a member and I… For the tablespoon, I designed the whole thing in Fusion 360 myself and then used various materials such as hard maple, cherry, European beech. And I did research. I’d go into stores and research, “Hey. What materials are companies using for wooden spoons?” And the typical one is European beech. It’s a hard wood and it looks good and has a closed grain, so it’s not like oils will soak into the grain. Yeah. Cherry also good and so is hard maple. In regard to the kind of same thing with each of these, I’d go into the store and see, “Hey, what’s an existing spatula made out of?” Well, there’s different ones but the one that people like the best is silicon.

Sam Wechsler:
And then yeah, I would prototype these all myself at first. I had 3D printers in my basement, I 3D print. For the silicon I’d 3D print a mold and then make my own… I’d pour in silicon and make my own prototypes. And I show them to people. The idea is to show them to people first and get feedback. That’s kind of the most important part. A lot of engineers don’t understand that they can’t [inaudible 00:10:32] including myself at first where I would build something and build something and then never show it to anybody. So this is… It’s kind of one of the points of all this to show the people and get feedback and make sale.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I think you bring up a great point Sam in terms of that feedback loop that I don’t think a lot of entrepreneurs or startups or founders creating products get necessarily and build it in a vacuum and aren’t constantly communicating with the community that they’re potentially asking to purchase it or will have the best use case for it. Right. So the fact that you’re out there getting feedback for the product, making iterations is key to the overall success of the product and the company in general.

Sam Wechsler:
Yeah. As you go through life and entrepreneurship you learn hard lessons as you go.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely.

Sam Wechsler:
So in terms of… Maybe you could share some of the lessons you’ve learned recently if you want to.

Roy Morejon:
Man, there’s a lot of them for another podcast, but in terms of a current lesson I think preparation is probably one of those key ones. Since we had that lesson learned you and I together in terms of getting this podcast set up and running the first time, it wasn’t working, technical issues, internet issues, whatever it may be. If we were properly prepared we probably would have been able to do this the first time around. But I think preparation in anything in life is critical to just overall success in general and having a game plan. Not flying by the seat of your pants so to speak is going to aid in the longevity of your entrepreneurial career I believe. So Sam, the first campaign launched with mild success. It was a low four figure campaign and the next campaign launched in quadruple the amount of backers and supporters doing a low five figure campaign. So let’s talk a little bit about the kickstarter campaigns and some of the things that you might do differently on the next one or some of the learnings that you’ve had along the way doing multiple kickstarter projects.

Sam Wechsler:
Well, unfortunately I’m losing money on the Kickstarters. But we’ll see. Overall it’s going to be a net loss, unfortunately. But I might be able to turn things around on Amazon with some of these products. I’m going to put them all on Amazon next. I actually just sent in my initial FBA units to get up there and then I’m going to experiment with Facebook ads myself. And yeah, we’ll see if I can make a net… If I can make our comeback on this on a net profit. It’s a challenge. I don’t know.

Roy Morejon:
Do you think Amazon is a good next step for most companies that launch on Kickstarter and are unable to fulfill to their backers and they need to go that next spot?

Sam Wechsler:
Yeah, I think so. It’s a real challenge. Like I said, I’m an engineer by background. Now, as an entrepreneur you almost have to think opposite of an engineer. An engineer is somebody who may be a perfectionist over design, doesn’t talk to people, et cetera. And then you have to… Its tricky kind of inverting that mentality of you go out, you talk to people, you iterate the design and…. Marketing is a real challenge, so that’s why I partnered with Enventys for the marketing aspect. Now, in the future I think I’m going to try something a little bit more lean, maybe Facebook ads myself, or to just try a little bit more of… kind of what Enventys showed me but on a budget, a little bit more of a budget. And we’ll see if I can get some Amazon sales but if not then I’m just going to be stuck with inventory for a while and give it away to friends and family for the next 10 years.

Roy Morejon:
I’m going to have lots of pasta parties.

Sam Wechsler:
Yeah. Here’s the thing, you have to also think worst case scenario, right. So I thought about that and the worst case scenario would be, yeah, I’m stuck with some inventory, but it’s not the end of the world. It could be a lot worse or I could have zero sales. So at least I got some and we’ll see. And even if this doesn’t work out, if people… if the concept was not a blockbuster, which it seems like it’s not going to be a blockbuster, then it’s kind of onto the next thing.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I know entrepreneurship can be a tough road. I mean, in some of these difficult moments and as you’re progressing in your company, how are you staying focused and moving forward and making progress?

Sam Wechsler:
Well, I think in big picture business concepts. So this is one big picture business concept, the concept of culinary multi tools and I’m trying it out for a couple of years and if it works, it works and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work and then I’m going to go on to my next thing. I have some 3D printing ideas. Over the pandemic I flipped a bunch of 3D printers and made money with them, resold them. So I have some designs in my own that I think are pretty innovative. And so that could be my next thing, but we’ll see. I mean, how did you land upon Kickstarter specialization? Were you trying a lot of different things at first? I guess that’s my question for you is how did you become specialized in this kind of marketing?

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. It certainly wasn’t the original goal in terms of what we were working on. We were more focused as a digital marketing agency specializing in helping startups with their digital marketing and their e-commerce. So we were kind of tangentially working on those sorts of things, but since I was really good at search engine optimization, I got us to rank on the first page of Google first startup marketing. And that’s when the first active Kickstarter campaign reached out to us and filled out our contact form and said, “Hey, we need help with our. We need marketing.” And that was our first foray into Kickstarter marketing almost a decade ago now.

Roy Morejon:
And just having the ability to be agile enough and see that revenues from helping Kickstarter campaigns and projects started to outpace those from a agency retainer standpoint, we went full in. In terms of helping startups with their marketing and helping Kickstarter campaigns bring in traction because most of the inventors and entrepreneurs out there running campaigns don’t know how to potentially get their message out there or find the right audience in the community and then run Facebook ads and do all the things necessary to promote their product and get early adopters to back in pledge and invest into a product that doesn’t exist yet. So really it’s been constant refinement, like I said, over the last decade of building it out and helping startups along the way.

Roy Morejon:
It’s been interesting. But Sam, where are you guys headed next? What’s the next product line look like?

Sam Wechsler:
I’m sticking with this for a while. I have new ideas for new products, but for now perhaps go to the… You’re going to the house [inaudible 00:19:02] show this year?

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I’m looking forward to it now that they finally got the inspired home, dates in Chicago. So yeah, I’ll be out there as well.

Sam Wechsler:
I might get a booth there. We’ll see how things go. I think it’s how good are our guest or something like that. And we’ll see. If I get a big order then that would be good. A big order would be great. Because I’ve built connections with manufacturers and with one decent size order I could make back my money and make the money. But what everyone’s looking for is a big product line. I have three products in my line right now and it’s kind of… I’ve sold to some mom and pop shops, but it’d be nice to get something bigger.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. I can relate with that Sam. Well this is going to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid-fire a handful of questions at you. You get to go this morning Sam?

Sam Wechsler:
We’ll see.

Roy Morejon:
So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Sam Wechsler:
My dad, I would say.

Roy Morejon:
If you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to have a meal with?

Sam Wechsler:
Archimedes.

Roy Morejon:
Interesting. That’s the first time on the show. What would have been your first question?

Sam Wechsler:
My first question would be, I don’t know, I would say how did you have… I would want to talk with him about the Eureka moment. I wouldn’t have a specific pointed question. You should ask me, what’s my favorite invention of all time?

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, that’s coming up, but go ahead and give it to me.

Sam Wechsler:
Writing.

Roy Morejon:
Writing. So the paper or the pencil, or just the act of writing itself?

Sam Wechsler:
The act of writing itself. There’s a great book I read called… it’s by this Israeli guy and it’s… what the hell is it called? It’s called. I just forgot the name of it. But anyway, it’s… It’s called Sapiens and it’s about our evolution from monkeys to the near future essentially. And I want to say writing system evolved about 12,000 years ago in Sumeria because we had to keep track. That’s when the agricultural revolution took place, so we had to keep track of things like grain and livestock and what not and we had to write that down onto pamphlets, right. So whoever invented writing, I mean look, people were writing on caves way before that, but we develop numbers and then we developed our whole writing system and writing I think has… Whoever really invented that system, we owe a lot to that. I think that’s… Anyway, I could go on and on about that, but…

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. No, Sapiens is definitely a great read, Yuval Noah Harari. For all those listening out there, great read as well. So what advice Sam would you give to a new inventor entrepreneur who’s looking to launch a new product?

Sam Wechsler:
Good question. My advice would be to talk with… figure out who your potential customer is. Who’s your target customer and read the book Business Model Generation. I think it’s by Steve Blank and if not it’s by somebody he’s affiliated with. And so talk with people. I think that’s a big one. Talk with potential customers and try to sell your products right away and get feedback, iterate. I think maybe iterate. Iterate might be the best possible… whatever you do in life, iterate and experiment because you don’t want to go all in on something if you don’t know it’s going to… If people don’t like it then why would you spend a lot of money on it? So yeah, iterate and try to reduce your risk.

Roy Morejon:
Solid advice there. Sam, last question. Given that you’ve launched two successful crowdfunding campaigns, give me your insights on what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Sam Wechsler:
I wish I knew the answer. Yeah, it’s hard for me to tell to be honest. It seems like there’s more and more crowdfunding campaigns out there. You tell me, you’d be way better answering that question than I would be. If you are way better at answering that question than I would, I don’t really know to be honest with you. What do you think Roy?

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. Just boldly I think that the future looks bright for not only reward based crowdfunding, but there’s certainly a major trend in terms of now the sec, updating the list, the rules and regulations on equity crowd funding. There’s just tremendous amount of growth there. So I think just the amount of startups and the opportunity to raise capital from the crowd is just going to continue to double every single year. So I’m very bullish on it Sam.

Sam Wechsler:
Have you worked with a company in equity crowd funding?

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. We’ve worked with a dozen or so companies on the equity crowd funding side.

Sam Wechsler:
Really! That’s goinG okay.

Roy Morejon:
Incredibly well. Yeah. It’s actually doing a lot of growth, so yeah, hopefully in the next few episodes, I’ll get some folks on, on the platform side or people that are running equity, crowdfunding campaigns so we can all listen into those conversations.

Sam Wechsler:
Interesting. All right.

Roy Morejon:
We’ll Sam this has been great. This is your opportunity to give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where they should go and why they should check you out.

Sam Wechsler:
Sure. Go to tablespoon.com. So that’s tablespoon with an E before the a. T E a B L E S P O O N. And check it out teablespoon.com. You can go to Amazon, you can buy the tablespoon there and if you like the idea of saving space and saving time in your kitchen, then check it out at teablespoon.com.

Roy Morejon:
Awesome. Thank you Sam and thank you audience for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to all of Sam’s products and everything else we talked about today. And of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadgetflow and ProductHype. Sam, thank you so much for being a guest on the show today.

Sam Wechsler:
Thank you Roy. Take care.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. And of course, make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the previous episodes. And if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll see you on the next episode.