How do you make tie straps sexy? What is the appeal, what is the angle that you would use to bring them to the marketplace? Is there a compelling reason for the average buyer to look for an innovative tie down strap? Entrepreneur Mark Blackburn joins this episode to discuss his product, the WrapTie. In our conversation, Mark opens up about the rise of startups in Australia, which pre-campaign practices helped his product succeed, why it’s so important to connect with influencers, his view on the future of crowdfunding, and much more! Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to learn from Mark’s fascinating and seasoned perspective!

What is WrapTie?

Is there really a place in the tie strap industry for innovation and disruption? What type of product could bring an edge to such a niche market? Mark Blackburn and his business partner, Paul McNeill saw a way to address some of the common complaints that consumers have with the average tie strap. After developing a prototype that eliminated the frustrating aspect of having to deal with excess strap after tying down an item, Mark and Paul went searching for a platform to launch their product. Finally, the pair landed on utilizing the crowdfunding community to ignite the fire that would fuel the rise of their business. Learn more about the Mark and Paul’s journey by listening to this engaging episode!

How crowdfunding in fueling startups in Australia.

Why do certain regions and markets seem to cultivate more startups than others? Does it have to do with the government regulations in place or the cultural climate? According to Mark Blackburn, in Australia, it all came down to access. For too long, innovators and entrepreneurs in Australia have enjoyed limited access to platforms like Indiegoho and Kickstarter. There seems to be an uptick in innovation in Australia because more and more of these innovators who have been waiting in the wings finally have access to platforms that empower their creativity. Find out more about the startup scene in Australia from Mark’s perspective by listening to this episode!

Connecting with influencers to promote your product.

Did you know that one of the best ways to get your product exposure is by connecting with industry influencers? It’s true! While each situation will vary, Mark Blackburn and his team at WrapTie saw a greater return on their investment when they focused on getting key influencers on board rather than focusing on other methods. It wasn’t a perfect strategy by any means, Mark and his team had to struggle through trial and error like everyone else but at the end of the day, they’ve tracked close to 90 percent of their sales back to the reviews and endorsements of these key influencers. What can you learn from the WrapTie story?

Use your connections and expand your network!

What is your organization’s greatest asset right now? Do you have the most innovative minds in your field? Do you have a competitive edge over the competition? What if your greatest asset was not something you own but a connection you have? As Mark Blackburn and his team at WrapTime worked tirelessly to get their fledgling startup off the ground, they found that their relationships and connections were the greatest assets they had at their disposal. What connections do you have that you could leverage? Take a look at your sector of the market and look for ways to make connections with the right people who can get your product the spotlight that it deserves!

Key Takeaways

  • [1:10] Mark Blackburn joins the podcast to talk about his product, WrapTie.
  • [3:50] What has been fueling the rise of startups in Australia?
  • [5:30] Mark talks about the preparation that helped his crowdfunded product succeed.
  • [7:00] How connecting with influencers provided a good ROI.
  • [9:00] From crowdfunding to running an ecommerce business and lessons learned.
  • [11:30] Why it’s important to leverage connections.
  • [12:30] Mark enters the Launch Round, rapid-fire questions.
  • [17:50] Why you should check out WrapTie.

Links

Connect With WrapTie  

Sponsors

Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 20% off!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

 

Connect With the Art Of The Kickstart team 

View this episode’s transcript

Roy Morejon:                    Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host Roy Morejon, President of Enventys Partners, the top, full-service turnkey product development and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped startups raise over $100 million for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit and The Gadget Flow. BackerKit makes software that project funding creators use to survey backers, organize data and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:                    Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined with Mark Blackburn with WrapTies. Mark, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mark Blackburn:              Yep. That’s no problem. Thanks for inviting me down.

Roy Morejon:                    So WrapTie, you guys ran an Indiegogo campaign about this a little bit later than this time last year. The world’s smartest multi-function tie down strap. Really innovative product. You guys raised tens of thousands of dollars from Indiegogo. So let’s talk about the innovation itself. Where did this idea come from? What inspired you to create WrapTie?

Mark Blackburn:              Okay. So WrapTie is a partnership with me and a good friend of mine from Australia. He had an idea, probably 10 years ago now, looking for something he could strap his bike to the wool when he was unloading his kid from the child seat on the back of the bike. And he tried everything – rope, tape, bungee cords, and he couldn’t find anyone strap or tie down that he could operate and keep his kid from wriggling and falling out of the backseat at the same time. So he spent a couple of years tinkering and figuring out a solution and eventually this is what he came up with, the WrapTie.

Roy Morejon:                    I’m sure the kid on the back of the bike didn’t like the product.

Mark Blackburn:               Well the kid survived, thankfully, so the kid is starting to be grown up now.

Roy Morejon:                    Good. So when you guys were creating WrapTies, what did that process look like? How did you guys go about deciding what features, materials, how to design it, all of that?

Mark Blackburn:               I guess the design idea was conceptualized over the 5-10 years that Paul had it in his head. And then when we met a couple of years ago, or when we caught back up with each other a couple of years ago, and he pitched the idea to me, we basically sat down and looked at how would you commercialize something like this. How would you make it? And really what could be the key aspects of this product that would differentiate us from everything else on the market.

Mark Blackburn:               So that was the first step, was trying to turn his idea, which was just an idea at the time into something that we could actually make. So we spent a bit of time doing that, and we spent quite a lot of time figuring out actually where we were going to make it as well. Because Australia, unfortunately, is quite an expensive country to make things, so straight away we were stuck from the get-go on where to make it. That was the first big challenge we had.

Roy Morejon:                    I’m curious. We’ve worked with a few different companies out of Australia. Australia seems to be picking up in terms of the innovation and the scale and the startups that are coming out of it. What’s changed there over the past few years to spark innovation there?

Mark Blackburn:               Innovation’s always been in Australia. The thing that’s happening now in Australia is people are getting more access, you know with the internet and with the crowdfunding and with people who are looking for angel investors. There’s more opportunity to get the ideas out. 10, 15 years ago before the internet, the only way you could launch an idea was to go and talk to some company and ask if they would commercialize it for you. That’s really what changed. Companies like Indiegogo and Kickstarter created a platform for these people. The ideas have always been there. They’ve just never been able to get out there.

Roy Morejon:                    So from Australia, now you’re in Taiwan. What brought you there?

Mark Blackburn:               Kind of a long, but my wife is Taiwanese and I was sick of working my job and looking for a different kind of lifestyle and we ended up in Taiwan right about the same time as when my friend pitched me the idea. It just so happens that Taiwan is basically, one of the, I think they do something like 70 or 80% of the world’s trainers in this country – the running shoes. So it’s high-tech fabric manufacturing which is perfect place for our strap. So, I guess serendipitous we ended up in this country and that’s where we started looking for our manufacturers.

Roy Morejon:                    Excellent. So let’s talk about the Indiegogo campaign. With our founders on the show we usually always talk about how important the month or two or the year leading up to launch is. What were some of the things that you did that led to your great and successful launch for WrapTie?

Mark Blackburn:               I read. I can’t even remember reading so much in my life. I read every website there was. Every training course there was. And took all that information and tried to sift it down into a workable project line. Because it’s just so much information out there now for people looking to kickstart projects.

Mark Blackburn:               That was the very first thing I did, was just try and sift through everything that was out there and try to come up with a game plan. The game plan was to try and create the image of a professional company. So we didn’t look like a bunch of hacks, who had just put together some strap in the back of their shed. So that’s really what we looked to do, create a professional looking product with a professional looking front. And that was an awful lot of work.

Roy Morejon:                    I bet. With all those marketing efforts that you put forth into this project, where did you see the biggest return on your investment?

Mark Blackburn:               We tried everything. We tried Facebook marketing, Google ads, all those kinds of ads. The one thing we found that really worked the most, we tried to grow our email list, we hit all our friends, everything that they tell you to do. But the one thing that really helped was when we identified the key influences in our market segment. People who had a good strong voice and we got them to recommend our product. Review our product. And from those reviews, that’s really where we got 90% of our sales, I would say.

Roy Morejon:                    How did you end up finding and sourcing those influencers?

Mark Blackburn:               It was a lot of trial and error. You read a lot of reviews online. Is this company trustworthy? Is that company trustworthy? There’s a lot of trial and error like that. And also it’s just hard work. I had a list of maybe 200 or more gadget sites and camping sites and we just went through every single one of them. We’d just call them and try to get them to review. There’s no easy way, you’ve just got to put the hard yards in really. Send our hundreds and hundreds of emails. Make hundreds and hundreds of calls. It was long and hard and slow.

Roy Morejon:                    Got it. So I’m interested to know, because you guys ran your campaign during the start of the winter and not the holidays here in the States. Was there a reason you ran it during that timeframe?

Mark Blackburn:               Not really. We were looking to validate our design online. We had a good idea that people liked it. We had a lot of prototypes out there that were being tested and people were really liking it. The one thing we were really interested in was getting some feedback from the market. And so, that timing for us didn’t really matter.

Mark Blackburn:               We would have ideally liked to have launched it a little bit sooner, because I think we ended up launching in November. I think the original plan was to launch in October, but there was a few issues with production. Like getting pre-production samples and testing that delayed until November. So maybe a little bit late.

Roy Morejon:                    Got it. So you guys recently started to ship the product, so congrats on that.

Mark Blackburn:               Thank you.

Roy Morejon:                    What did it look like as you moved away from a crowdfunding campaign to an eCommerce business or wholesale business? What did that transition look like?

Mark Blackburn:               If you do a good launch, and we were so lucky, we ended up three times what our target was, so we were a bit over-awed. We went from shipping hundreds and hundreds of customers to silence. The website was live, but nobody knows about the website. Nobody’s on our Facebook page anymore and people don’t care anymore. And that’s the first thing we noticed was how quiet it was.

Roy Morejon:                    Yeah and that’s the unfortunate side, right? You get all the press or the buzz and everything’s new with the crowdfunding campaign but once the campaign’s over, how do you continue to generate buzz and get sales to continue to come through your website or the eCommerce page.

Mark Blackburn:               Yeah yeah.

Roy Morejon:                    So what tips would you have for someone transitioning to eCommerce?

Mark Blackburn:               We had a plan right from the beginning. So we have a product that we can sell at volume. It’s a hardware item. It’s a strap. We wanted to target not just B to C, we want to target B to B. Part of our strategy is to talk to larger customers. And that takes time. That’s not really online. That’s on the phone. That’s email. And so, that kind of stuff is just slow and you’ve just got to expect that.

Mark Blackburn:               But in terms of the online stuff, like getting the website going, you’ve really got to have a marketing plan and you’ve got to figure out step one. Once you leave the world of the new startup it’s which kind of small niche segment am I going to target?

Mark Blackburn:               For example, tie down straps, who do you target, right? Do you target camping, surfing, hardware people, plumbers, chippies? I mean, everybody uses a strap. One of the big mistakes we made in the beginning was trying to hit everybody. And you waste a lot of time. You waste a lot of money. What we learned very early on was just to go very deep in one segment. And really start attacking that one segment and then just grow organically from there.

Roy Morejon:                    So what was the biggest thing you learned through the whole process of launching your Indiegogo campaign?

Mark Blackburn:               The biggest thing we learned from Indiegogo is to leverage other people’s connections. There’s a lot of people out there who’ve been selling products like yours. They’ve already got a client base. They already know all their customers. You’ve got to talk to those people because they have all the authority that you don’t have.

Mark Blackburn:               We’ve got a product that nobody’s ever seen before. They’ve never heard of it. They don’t even know what it does. Why would they buy it off my website? Why would they trust me? You’ve got to go and talk to people who’ve already gained that trust in the marketplace. That’s by far the biggest thing we’ve learned and we’re still learning today.

Roy Morejon:                    Awesome. Well, Mark, 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?

Mark Blackburn:               Yep. Let’s go.

Roy Morejon:                    Alright. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Mark Blackburn:               I was sick of working for people who didn’t have the same kind of dreams and aspirations that I did. I wanted to do so many different things, and I frustrated time after time in my job and where I saw the company going. I wanted to do my own thing.

Roy Morejon:                    Yeah. I think a lot of people resonate with that. If you could grab a beer with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Mark Blackburn:              My big hero growing up was Richard Branson. I grew up in the UK and he’s something of an idol in the UK.

Roy Morejon:                    Nice. What would be your first question for Sir Richard?

Mark Blackburn:              I would ask him how he puts up with all the in-between bits. Because what I’m finding the entrepreneur life is, there’s the challenging times which are fun, you know you get stuck in and you roll your sleeves up. But 90% of the time is waiting for the next thing to happen. Waiting for the customer to call. It’s like, what do you do? It’s the most frustrating time of my life. And it’s the time when I feel like I’m failing, but I guess that’s part of being an entrepreneur is trying to figure out what to do during those big dark times. Yeah, exactly.

Roy Morejon:                    And speaking of books, is there any business book you’d recommend to our audience?

Mark Blackburn:              Tim Ferriss, years ago now, I guess his first book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” That was the book that got me thinking about how to automate things.

Mark Blackburn:              Our company still at the moment, we’re making good sales, we’re shipping globally, we have a manufacturing side, we have marketing teams, we have assistants, accountants, a full team. But there’s still only two of us and we’re doing it all remote. My partner’s in Australia, I work in Taiwan, and I can work anywhere in the world because a lot of the stuff I figured out from Tim Ferriss’s book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” It’s like, automate everything. If you can’t automate it, then you’re stuck doing it yourself. I learned that very quickly and it’s saved me a lot of heartache.

Roy Morejon:                    So where do you see yourself in 5 years, Mark?

Mark Blackburn:              Good question. One of the reasons why we launched this company, I do a lot of work for plastic pollution and plastic pollution awareness in Asia. The material we make these straps out of, we make it out of recycled plastic. This was a really big part of my passion for being an entrepreneur, was doing something that I really wanted to do. And what I really want to do is highlight plastic pollution. Where I see myself and the company in 5 years is making more products like this that are environmentally sound but not eco products.

Mark Blackburn:              When you buy one of our straps you’re taking a plastic bottle out of landfill. Or you’re taking a plastic bottle out of the incinerator. That just makes me feel really happy. The more we sell, the happier I get. That’s kind of my dream job.

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. Yeah, I saw that you started One Brown Planet for sustainable living. I was recently fortunate to meet with David Godfrey, the guy who wrote the book on the global green building movement for the LEED certification system. And then we’ve worked with local companies here, DirtBall Fashion and Recover Fashion brands that are making clothing out of recycled plastic, so it’s great to see more of a movement into that side of things because people are aware of the issues we’re seeing in the world.

Mark Blackburn:              Yeah. Recycled plastic, ask yourself a question. People always say, “Of course my plastic gets recycled.” But ask yourself a question, “How many products do I buy is made out of recycled plastic?” And then suddenly you realize how little plastic has been recycled. That’s a good acid test for you.

Roy Morejon:                    Groovy. Alright Mark. Last question in the launch round. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Mark Blackburn:              Crowdfunding has opened up the floodgates for entrepreneurs with great ideas. And a lot of the ideas not so great, but they don’t launch. It’s just the perfect platform for good ideas to get out there. I think as the tools get slick and easier to use, I think the ideas are going to have to get better. Because everybody now is going to be launching using the same platform. It’s all going to look the same. You’re going to start to see the ideas that are just kind of so-so, that maybe a few years ago would have launched really well. Because everything looks slick now, people are looking through the shiny websites and the interviews and things like that and they’re actually seeing good products. I think the future of crowdfunding is really really bright. I think you’re going to see a lot more countries getting involved as well outside of western Europe, the US. As there’s a heap of things happening over here in Asia. South America’s now started to go crazy. So I think it’s going really open in the next 5 years.

Roy Morejon:                    I’m looking forward to it Mark. Well this has been awesome.

Roy Morejon:                    This is your opportunity to give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about. Where people should go, and why they should buy a WrapTie.

Mark Blackburn:              Okay. Thanks for that. Come check it out WrapTie.net. We’re on sale now and we are the smartest straps in the world. Come check it out. And thanks for listening and thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk to everyone.

Roy Morejon:                    Yeah. My pleasure. Audience thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign and the product and everything else we talked about today. And of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. And if you loved this episode, make sure to leave us a review on iTunes. Mark, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Mark Blackburn:              No problem Roy. Thanks for having me. Have a good day.

Roy Morejon:                    Thanks for tuning into another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, awesome. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com and tell us all about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes, our Kickstarter guide to crushing it, and of course, if you love this episode a lot leave us a review at artofthekickstart.com/itunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs and startups find the show and helps us get better guests to help you build a better business. If you need more hands-on crowdfunding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on Enventyspartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in and we’ll see you next week.