In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed the co-inventor of DorsiFLEX, Jim Cooper. DorsiFLEX is a one-of-a-kind stretching device that delivers a personalized stretch and strengthens the foot and the calf muscles of individuals. This patented device allows for a variable and adjustable positioning of your foot to achieve a deeper and more effective stretch of all lower leg and foot muscles. DorsiFLEX targets muscles that contribute to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and other lower leg injuries. Learn how DorsiFLEX raised nearly $100,000 with the support of over 800 backers as their Kickstarter campaign starts to wrap up.
Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways
  • Insight into how Jim’s personal medical history led to the invention of DorsiFLEX
  • How DorsiFLEX used market validation tests to prepare for their Kickstarter launch
  • The different ways DorsiFLEX strengthens foot and calf muscles of individuals
  • How DorsiFLEX went about the process of developing prototypes
  • Takeaways from launching DorsiFLEX on Kickstarter

Links

Sponsors

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Transcript

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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 Enventys Partners, the world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2,000 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.

Roy Morejon:
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 1,000 top tier projects since 2017. Check out producthype.co 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 super excited because I am speaking with the co-inventor of DorsiFLEX, Mr. Jim Cooper. Jim, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Jim Cooper:
Roy, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, it’s my pleasure, honestly. I think you’ve created a truly innovative product. A truly, again, one-of-a-kind stretching device that delivers this deep, personalized, effective stretch and strengthens the foot and the calf muscles of individuals. You’ve got an active Kickstarter campaign that’s about to wrap up. You’ve got about $89,000 in funding with hundreds of backers that have come in. So if you would, Jim, give our audience a little bit of background about your product as if we’ve never heard it before.

Jim Cooper:
That’s great. You got two hours? No, I’m just kidding. So the DorsiFLEX was invented by me for me because I was, like many people, suffering from plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the arch of your foot where it inserts into your heel. Unlike most people, I had it bilaterally. So I had it in both feet at the same time,

Jim Cooper:
I was doing everything that the physical therapist and the doctor told me to do. Wear the orthotic, take the shot, take the anti-inflammatories, do all the stretching, sleep in the boot and nothing was working. I’m a mechanical engineer by education. They teach us to be problem solvers. Out of sheer desperation, I started looking at the position my foot was named when it hurt the worst, and I came up with ultimately the DorsiFLEX, which is inclining the toes vertically and laterally while also minimizing the angle between the top of your foot in front of your shin. So you’re really positioning your foot in a unique fashion while doing a traditional leg stretch, and almost immediately my problems started going away. That was the impetus of where the DorsiFLEX came from. Sheer desperation to solve my problem.

Roy Morejon:
Well, I think a lot of great products and innovations come out of the desperation, right? Or the need to be able to solve something very intrinsic or individual in nature. But obviously with the success of the campaign, there’s hundreds of people that have just noticed this campaign and have backed it because they have this issue.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s talk a little bit about … Take it back to the drawing board in terms of when you started creating this product. What was that process like? How did you go about deciding what features to include different designs, different elements? How you’ve been partnered with our engineering team to bring this product to market.

Jim Cooper:
Sure. So this is July 2019. In August 2012, three of us met to work on my idea to improve the product. So go back 30 years … I made this product 30 years ago. It was very simple. It looked like Barbie’s chaise lounge, and it didn’t have all the features that the DorsiFLEX now has. But it did work and it worked reasonably well. But it ended up dying for a number of different reasons. So in 2012 we noticed that plantar fasciitis was still a huge problem. No one had come up with our solution, and it was still just epidemic proportions in the world out there for everybody.

Jim Cooper:
So we met and came up with a couple different working prototypes. We decided on the prototype we liked best, and that’s the one we started developing even further. We made 40 really crude prototypes with a partner that we had. From there we started tweaking the design to make it more comfortable, because as you can imagine, the first one was very bulky, it was clunky, and it was not very comfortable. We made tweaks to the base, we made tweaks to the fingers, the quantity, the shape, and the materials for construction and slowly worked into what this product looks like now.

Roy Morejon:
So obviously this has been a work in progress, decades now. Talk about some of those challenges that you’ve encountered while designing the product and just bringing this product and innovation to market now.

Jim Cooper:
Challenges. Boy. Every design has its own pros and cons, and you’ve got to look at it and see how it works. Can it be machined? Can it be made? How complex is it and all that kind of stuff. All that requires money. First off, it’s having the finances available to be able to start and continue and sustaining the development of the product.

Jim Cooper:
Then there’s the design of the product. Coming up with different ideas, making sure you don’t kill yourself and your design and your financing by death by a thousand cuts. You’ve got to really decide and then move forward with it and not look back and then tweak it from there.

Jim Cooper:
Then getting working prototypes was the next biggest thing. To get them out to people to really see what we have because like most entrepreneurs, you think you have the greatest thing since sliced bread. I mean, my product is wonderful, but until you get a perfect stranger or someone who will give you the unvarnished truth, standing on it or using it, you don’t know what you have. That’s where we started getting a lot of the really great customer voice of the customer feedback of what we have, what they liked, what they didn’t like and how we moved towards the version two that Enventys designed and that we are now introducing on Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s talk a little bit about that in terms of that lead up and that market validation you spoke of that we were able to do and kind of that market voice in terms of the user survey. We always talk about how important that lead up to launch is. What were some of those elements that gave you the confidence to be able to launch this and put this product out there and be able to have it such a successful campaign?

Jim Cooper:
We thought … We didn’t know for sure … We thought we had a good product. So we’re introducing, our Kickstarter is after four years of a proof of concept phase, I may add. So we started selling product back in 2017 to get the product out to people, perfect strangers, selling it to see what the voice of the customer came back and said. So I forgot what I was … Your question. Sorry.

Roy Morejon:
I was just talking about some of that prep work. You had mentioned doing it and starting that process four years ago now. And then what led you to this point in terms of the feedback you’ve gotten.

Jim Cooper:
So we thought we had a really good product, but we didn’t know. We didn’t know it widespread. We’ve had limited marketing, limited market budget, limited supply of product because we weren’t convinced it was the final look. So, employing Enventys to have the skill sets to go out there and reach out to a far greater array of people than we could reach through our Instagram and our Facebook was really, really important and got feedback from people as well as getting leads that have ultimately led to quite a few orders. I mean, we probably didn’t get as many leads as Enventys had hoped.

Jim Cooper:
We started this Kickstarter on a wing and a prayer because we only had about 3,300 qualified leads from the market validation test and rumor had it, or guidelines had it that to really be successful it would be nice to have 5,000 or more. We only had, like I said, 3,200 and some change. But I made the decision to go forward with it regardless, because if it didn’t resonate with people out there, I was going to quit. I mean, I don’t need this to make the house payment. This is an entrepreneurial side effort. I needed to know based on having made my best effort to do the market validation and design and everything to find out if I had something that the market was willing to accept.

Roy Morejon:
Well, I definitely think you do. With hundreds of backers in the campaign, lots of support, even a solid percentage of new backers, people that have never backed a Kickstarter campaign, I think those are the folks that you’re truly solving problems for that didn’t know this innovation existed for, which then helps out bring new products to market and really help alleviate this major pain point that a lot of folks deal with.

Jim Cooper:
Well, we’re anxious to get the products out to people because, like you said, hundreds of people are using it. I want to get this in people’s hands so that we actually solve their problem so that they tell their friend and their friend tells a friend and their friend tells a friend because the problem exists, and it exists all over the place. We’re really excited to get the product out and get it in people’s hands so they can start using it and solving their problem and then getting great feedback.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I know. I think it’s great. I mean, Jim, you’ve been working with us and Enventys Partners for a while now. I mean, what were some of those considerations when you were choosing someone to help with, not only the development of the product but also the launch piece of it as well?

Jim Cooper:
As most entrepreneurs … I did this 30 years ago with the first product, like I mentioned, and it failed … I sold it to some guys, they did nothing with it, it died and it totally consumed me. Ate me up, spit me out. When I went into this, I swore and made a testimony to myself and to my wife that I was going to surround myself with people with skill sets that I don’t have. I can sell the product to anybody, but I don’t have the design capabilities, I don’t have the marketing capabilities, I don’t have the internet capabilities, I don’t have the production capabilities. But as an entrepreneur, you’re the center of the spoke, and you’re going out to find the marketing guy, the production guy, the accountant, the engineer, the marketing, the internet, the website, and a litany of other things.

Jim Cooper:
You’re the spoke of the wheel. I was introduced to Enventys through a common friend. As it was explained to me, it was enlightening that here was a company that was vertically integrated to provide me all these vertical silos, the spokes of the wheel that I was struggling with finding, under one roof. We had gotten to the point where we were proof of concept phase, but I knew the product was not ready for prime time, and it needed to be redesigned to look better, to weigh less and to be less expensive to manufacture. That’s where Enventys came in. We worked on that for roughly almost two years with the iterations and the changes and then the 3D modeling and then the proof of concept, the actual product to stand on to see if we could break it, and then the redesign of that. To make sure that what we come out with is pretty bulletproof.

Jim Cooper:
Then, went to the market validation in the Kickstarter function of it. I was just on the phone earlier today with you guys on my website redesign and the post Kickstarter marketing effort and campaign that we’re going to do. So I mean, that was a godsend, honestly, that I only have one person they have to deal with instead of being the spoke of the wheel reaching out on all these spokes that support the whole product. I’ve got it all under one roof. It was a great find and a great partnership so far.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, no, we’ve certainly appreciated it, Jim, as well. Really interested to hear now, jumping back into the Kickstarter side of things, what’s been your biggest takeaway through the whole process of launching?

Jim Cooper:
I have no clue what’s going on, and thank God for Enventys’ knowledge of this effort and this medium. Daily, there are orders. Their orders have exceeded my wildest expectations and dreams. While I know what’s going on, I don’t really know what’s been done to make it all go on. So that’s been the biggest mystery and the greatest surprise to me is just how this thing has flown and sustained itself over the 30 days. I guess we’re at 29 days today. It’s worked wonderfully, and the results have been really, really good, but I don’t know how a lot of it has worked. But again, I don’t need to know how all it works. That’s why I hired the Enventys marketing team and the Kickstarter and the crowdfunding team to handle this for me.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, we’re glad to be partners on this with you, Jim. This is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. You good to go?

Jim Cooper:
I’m ready.

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

Jim Cooper:
Opportunity. Opportunity and having come up with this device to make it for people, but also to help people. I’m not doing this to make a ton of money. I don’t want to lose money, but I’m not out to make a zillion dollars. Our job is to help people because no one should have to suffer with plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis and preventable problems like that. So that’s been my primary goal is to go out and help people.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Jim Cooper:
The greatest of all time is Thomas Edison, without question. He invented so many things and the greatest inventor of our time.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what would have been your first question for him?

Jim Cooper:
More than just one. But how did you fund everything and what did you do to keep from getting so bummed out? The downs are awfully low and the highs are awfully high. What did he do to resolve those entrepreneurial emotional peaks and valleys?

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Any books that you’d recommend to our startup founder listeners?

Jim Cooper:
I would. It’s not just one, it’s three. The Jim Collins books. Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall. I would recommend reading those many, many times because they’re chock full of insight and mistakes that you want to glean onto and avoid.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. All good reads there. Jim, what do you think are the top three skills that you think every entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Jim Cooper:
I’ll give you four. Grit, determination, perseverance, and vision.

Roy Morejon:
All solid there. So, Jim, I know we just are about to wrap up your first reward-based Kickstarter campaign, but very interested to hear your take on what does the future of crowdfunding look like.

Jim Cooper:
The future’s extremely bright. I’m just a little old entrepreneur. I came up with an idea, you read and you ask and you learn what are some opportunities and how does this happen. I’ve heard it said many times before, the best way to fund a product is having paying customers. This Kickstarter is giving me indication that I have a product that there are customers willing to pay for. I think, without question, done properly with the right group of people, with the right skill sets, the future for anybody with a product that’s needed and well-received in the marketplace, a Kickstarter and a crowdfunding opportunity exists for now and big time in the future.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Jim, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity to say what you didn’t say, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check you out.

Jim Cooper:
So thank you for this. If you’re suffering or you have anyone that you know, or a friend or a family member that are suffering from plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, turf toe, or chronic calf problems, we have a product called the DorsiFLEX that will take care of that, provided the problem is associated with inflexibility and/or weak muscles. You can go to our website at www.thedorsiflex.com. You can go to our Instagram page, thedorsiflex. We also are on Kickstarter under DorsiFLEX until Monday the 19th. Our webpage is www.thedorsiflex.com.

Roy Morejon:
Amazing. Jim, thank you so much. Audience, thank you for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign and the books and everything else we talked about today. Of course, got to think my crowdfunding podcast sponsors the Gadget Flow and ProductHype. If you loved this episode as much as I did, make sure to leave us a review on iTunes. Jim, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Jim Cooper:
Roy, thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Roy Morejon:
Likewise.

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. Of course, make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the previous episodes. 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.