In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Timothy Lee and Michael Graham, co-creators of the Mozu Hanger, the friendliest hanger on the planet. As a slim, earth-friendly hanger, Mozu has an innovative notch that eliminates the stretching of collars. Listen in to hear about the brand’s product development journey and how they came to crowdfund on Kickstarter.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

    • Timothy and Michael’s backstory and the inspiration behind creating the Mozu Hanger
    • The design process and how they decided on it’s features and materials
    • The prep work leading up to the launch of the Mozu Hanger campaign
    • Their biggest takeaway throughout the Kickstarter campaign

    Links

    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!

    Transcript

    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 a hundred million dollars 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 Gadget Flow.
    Roy Morejon:
    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 cool 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 speaking with two co-creators of the Mozu Hanger, Tim Lee and Michael Graham. Tim and Michael, thank you so much for joining me today on Art of the Kickstart.
    Timothy Lee:
    Thanks for having us.
    Roy Morejon:
    Yeah. So I’m really excited to talk about this truly innovative, eco-friendly clothing hanger. You guys, it’s so unique that you actually were awarded a design patent for it. And the engineering behind this thing is really amazing. The fact that you can hang and remove clothes without unbuttoning buttons, which I know is just really annoying, stop overstretching your collars, all of that, the engineering and the design that you guys did on this, even fits like baby clothes to adults. So I’m really excited to hear where it all started and what inspired you guys to create Mozu.
    Timothy Lee:
    Yeah, so basically the hanger started off as kind of a test project, Michael and I, and a couple other friends were basically looking to start a sustainable-focused design firm. And we thought it might be good just to flush out our processes by picking a common household item and redesigning it and just seeing how that process worked and using those lessons learned to move forward. And we ended up coming up with the Mozu Hanger first by looking at how we can make hangers more sustainable because of the issue where millions of hangers or plastic hangers are being disposed of and ending up in landfills every year.
    Timothy Lee:
    And so we looked at some different materials and settled in on bamboo and wheat straw, both of which are highly sustainable and renewable materials. And then along the way, we came up with the idea of the notch in order to make the process and the routine for hanging and taking off your clothes more simple and more efficient. And that’s basically how it started and then we just ran with it because we got some feedback and everyone seemed to really love it. And we fell in love with the design. So we just decided to move forward with it.
    Roy Morejon:
    I really have a thing for sustainable companies and we’ve done everyone from Adrian Solgaard with his recycled products to LastSwab and Last Objects, Isabel was on the show recently. So when you were creating Mozu, what was the process like? How did you go about deciding on the features, the blends, the recyclable or sustainable features into it? Talk about that design process for us.
    Timothy Lee:
    Sure. So basically what we ended up doing was we did a market study just to see what hangers are already out there and what are some of the features they have. And we created just basically like a chart to show the price points, features and materials, and it seemed to us that the sustainability wasn’t really a main focus in hanger development. And so that’s what we think sets us apart from the competition. Originally we were looking strictly at the bamboo material because of its renewability and aesthetics as well, but along the way, the price point was a bit higher than we had hoped. And so our manufacturing partner also does injection molding. And so they recommended this other material that’s relatively new to the market.
    Timothy Lee:
    And so we were able to incorporate that into our design and offer that as another material option. As far as the hanger design iterations go, basically, the team just came up with a bunch of different individual design concepts, and we flushed through them all, ranked them, racked the stack them, and then decided which, which features we felt were most promising. And then we brought those to potential customers and had them evaluate it and give us feedback as well. And that’s how we ended up honing in on the main design features, and then also leveraging my background in structural engineering as well as Michael’s background in graphic design, we were able to improve the strength of the design as well as make it very aesthetically pleasing.
    Roy Morejon:
    What led you guys to crowdfunding in terms of launching this innovation using Kickstarter as a means to validate the product and presale the product? How did you first get introduced to crowdfunding and what made you decide that this was the best path forward with your product?
    Timothy Lee:
    Michael, you want to try and jump in on this one?
    Michael Graham:
    It’s a great question. To be honest, I don’t even know what first drew us to crowdfunding. Possibly during market research, I know that that’s how we encountered a variety of clothing hangers that were all unique from the conventional design and each offered unique benefits. They had proven to be very successful in the Kickstarter community. So that gave us the first inkling, we could that platform to promote our product and to generate awareness and raise capital for the manufacturing of the product. And during these difficult times right now, that was one of our biggest concerns was what kind of impact will that have on the crowdfunding community
    Michael Graham:
    And through our research, it has shown that the success rate of Kickstarter campaigns are the same as they were before. So it surprised to know that even though there’s a lot of shifts going on economically in the world right now, people are still going to this platform and people are still pursuing product and backing these products and that there’s still a demand for it.
    Roy Morejon:
    Absolutely. Talk a little bit about, and the campaign hasn’t launched yet as we record this, but certainly when it goes live, the campaign will be live as well. Talk a little bit about the prep work that you guys have done leading up to your Kickstarter campaign. I know you’ve started doing some initial consumer research and getting feedback, which is great. What are some of the other elements or marketing things that you’ve done to lead up to the launch?
    Michael Graham:
    Tim, do you want to take that one?
    Timothy Lee:
    Sure. Yeah. Roy, I think you dropped out for a minute, but I think you were asking about the prep work for the campaign?
    Roy Morejon:
    Correct.
    Timothy Lee:
    Yeah. So actually this project has been a work in process for quite a while. I think longer than most campaigns due to several reasons, one being just our individual commitments both to our families and our work, and also just the design process in general, we’re kind of perfectionist. And so we don’t want to put anything out there until we’re 100% satisfied with it and so we didn’t want to rush into anything. And so I guess, you know, one of the first things we did after we kind of settled on the design was to move forward with developing marketing collateral, pictures, video.
    Timothy Lee:
    And we tried to be as involved in that process as we could. And so we used a friend of ours to shoot the video and a friend of ours to, it’s a professional photographer to shoot the product photos as well. But we did a lot of the editing ourselves. And I think since it’s our first Kickstarter campaign, there’s a lot that we didn’t know going into it that now after the fact, if we had known, we would have done things a little differently, both with just general product shots, different variety of photography as well as in the video. I think we jumped a little bit and did things a little bit quickly, which made it a little bit more difficult in the end trying to rework some of the video voiceovers and rec, recutting the video to try to incorporate the new material.
    Timothy Lee:
    So I think we learned a lot along that process and for the next product, I think we’ll be in a much better position, but it was a learning process. And so I’m getting off on a little bit of a tangent, but after the video and photography, we moved forward in creating a website and starting to draft the Kickstarter campaign. And then eventually we started doing some Facebook ads to try to get lead generation for the campaign. And then COVID-19 happened and things got a little bit more worrisome about the campaign like Michael mentioned. And so that’s when we decided to enlist the help of Enventys to help us along with this process.
    Roy Morejon:
    Yeah. You’ve been working with us here at Enventys Partners for a while now. What were some of those considerations that you went through in terms of choosing an agency to partner with on your launch?
    Timothy Lee:
    The number one thing for me, I think was transparency. We looked at some other marketing companies and I think one thing that Enventys stood out among the pack was their willingness to be completely transparent in all of their marketing processes. And so that’s something that we as a company could learn from along the way, was a lot of other companies, marketing companies kept a tight lid on their strategy and their processes to the point where we wouldn’t really be able to learn a whole lot.
    Timothy Lee:
    And so I think that was one of the major factors of us choosing a marketing partner as well as the reputation. I think Enventys is just across the industry has a very good reputation from previous backers and that played a huge role in us deciding which company to use.
    Roy Morejon:
    No, that’s great to hear always on my end. So given that the campaign hasn’t launched yet, what’s the number one takeaway you’ve learned through prelaunch in terms of getting your innovation ready for the big lights?
    Michael Graham:
    Well, so Tim, I’ll jump here and speak quickly to that. Tim mentioned earlier that this entire process has been a learning experience, and I would completely agree with that. We went into this thing thinking that the bamboo laminated, three-ply bamboo material was going to be the only material, the only offering for the Mozu Hanger. And then along the way after performing research with manufacturing and production and sourcing the materials, it was determined that that was not the most economical approach for the type of product that we’re trying to launch. So throughout that entire process, we had to shift gears along the way. We had a whole bunch of marketing material that was built around the bamboo version of the hanger.
    Michael Graham:
    And so we had to switch gears and quickly implement and create new marketing materials for the new wheat straw material here. And one of the things that stood out to us with Enventys was that you offer a full suite of services for people starting out like myself and Tim where we don’t have a full understanding as to what the process is or how to get to the end, but you offer consulting and prototyping, all sorts of services from start to finish. And that’s one of the biggest things I feel has been helping us throughout this entire process.
    Roy Morejon:
    So gentlemen, this is going to get us into our launch round. Tim, you did draw the short straw, so I’m going to rapid-fire a handful of questions at you. Tim, you’re good to go?
    Timothy Lee:
    Yeah.
    Roy Morejon:
    Beautiful. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
    Timothy Lee:
    Actually, just my love for creating and building things.
    Roy Morejon:
    If you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?
    Timothy Lee:
    That would be Dean Kamen I think.
    Roy Morejon:
    Dean. Okay. That’s the first one on the show. What would be your first question for him?
    Timothy Lee:
    I guess I would ask him what inspired him to create all these out there products that are changing the way we look at things in the world.
    Roy Morejon:
    Interesting. Any books you’d recommend to a new startup founder or entrepreneur?
    Timothy Lee:
    Gosh, I’ve read so many, I can’t teach back.
    Roy Morejon:
    How about a favorite resource online for someone?
    Timothy Lee:
    Honestly, whenever I’m looking for something, I just Google it and I look at as many different resources I can to get all the different perspectives that I can possibly find.
    Roy Morejon:
    Tim, where do you see yourself in five years?
    Timothy Lee:
    Hopefully, the company that Michael and I have started is successful and that launches successful and we move on and develop multiple different follow on products.
    Roy Morejon:
    All right. Last question in the launch round. And I know you haven’t launched yet, but give me your opinion on what the future of crowdfunding looks like.
    Timothy Lee:
    I think it’s good. I think people are much more willing to look to back and support smaller businesses over large corporations. So I think it’s a good thing moving forward.
    Roy Morejon:
    I hope so. Gentlemen, this is your opportunity to give us your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check out Mozu.
    Timothy Lee:
    Okay. Yeah. So basically Ensu Design, which is our company, we created the Mozu hanger to incorporate a beautiful design, innovative functionality, and environmental consciousness in everyday products like clothing hangers. And so we’re launching on Kickstarter. So go to Kickstarter, look for Mozu hanger, M-O-Z-U hanger, and support us.
    Roy Morejon:
    Awesome. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to everything we talked about today. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors the Gadget Flow and [inaudible 00:15:53]. Tim, Michael, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
    Timothy Lee:
    Thanks so much, we appreciate it.
    Michael Graham:
    Thank you.
    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 loved this episode of lot, leave us a review at artofthekickstart.com/itunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups find this show and helps us get better guests to help you build a better business.
    Roy Morejon:
    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 again next week.