In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Yohan Jacob, the founder and president of Retailbound. Retailbound works to get emerging brands noticed by retail buyers. More importantly, they help these brands maintain a long-term relationship with buyers so they can enjoy sustained growth. In 14 years, they’ve worked with more than 4,000 product companies. Retailbound has also established a system of preparing brands to transition from crowdfunding to retail. Learn how Jacob’s three decades of experience in the industry have allowed him to evolve with and create Retailbound.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Jacob’s background, which included a position as a major buyer at Sears and Office Max, led him to create Retailbound
  • How Retailbound helps clients prepare for retail, including creating a go-to-market strategy
  • How Retailbound’s market and the audience has changed over the past 14 years
  • What does the path from crowdfunding to retail look like?
  • What is the future of retail?

Links

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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. 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 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 am honored to be joined by Yohan Jacob, the founder and president of Retailbound, and if you haven’t heard of Retailbound, where have you been? Obviously, you guys have been listening to my show for years now, but Retailbound is an agency that helps emerging brands get into these major retail stores and different sales channels. These guys, Yohan and his team have been around for over 14 years running the business. They’ve worked with over 4,000 different product companies. Yohan himself has spent three decades, sorry to age you there, sir, in the industry including being a major buyer at Sears, Office Max, and I have been honored to serve as a strategic advisor on his board for the past three years. So Yohan, really excited about the conversation and opportunity to finally get you on my show.

Yohan Jacob:
Thanks for having me, Roy.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s dive in. Obviously, you’ve seen it all in terms of products and clients and customers and consumer electronics, hardware, sporting goods, small appliances, STEM toys, you name it, you’ve seen it, just like we have over here at Enventys Partners, but what’s really unique is obviously what your company does. So give our audience a little bit of background in terms of Retailbound and what you guys are doing these days.

Yohan Jacob:
Sure, definitely. So thanks for the introduction. So Retailbound is a retail solutions agency that helps innovative brands scale and retail. We’re not a rep group, not a distributor, not really a consultant, we think we’re a hybrid. A lot of young brands, especially on the Kickstarter and the Indiegogo, have a great products, but just because you’ve raised a million dollars or $5 million doesn’t mean you’re ready to talk to a Best Buy or an Apple or a Sharper Image, right? So at Retailbound, Roy, our job is help clients get retail ready. So developing a go-to-market strategy, their pricing, logistics, positive support, marketing, what things they need to do, because it’s just like a job interview, Roy. Retailbound can tell which brands that are ready to work with them and which ones aren’t. The ones that aren’t ready to work with a retail buyer waste their time, waste the buyer’s time, and don’t get a second chance in making a first impression.

Yohan Jacob:
So we spend a lot of time. Roy, helping young brands transition from the crowdfunding world into the retail world by getting them retail ready. Once they’re retail ready, Roy, we have over 200 sales reps and four distributors that work with our team, again, placed at various retailers, from large ones like Apple, Best Buy, Costco, QVC, Target to midsized and smaller retailers out there. We also have clients, Roy, in B2B, so it could be contract, hospitality, healthcare, government, or education. So we have clients in multiple verticals. Not many is like us, so we are a unique hybrid for prog brands without the time or experience to launch into retail themselves.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s take a trip back 14 years ago, in terms of when you founded this company, how has the mission changed and how has the dialogue changed amongst the inventors or the creators and the buyers?

Yohan Jacob:
So when we first launched the company many years ago, most retailers kind of just, kind of launched their online platform, right, now, and so they’re private or open to experiment online, right? And out there it was a lot less costly. Today, now, as for more retail, like a Best Buy or Target, the online business, could be as big as the brick and mortar. So the level of preparation, the amount of funding you may need to be online at Best Buy or Target, it’s much more greater than it was 14 to 15 years ago when we first started the business. So as a young, if you’re a young crowdsource brand, you’re an inventor, you need to, whether it’s in-store or online, you need to have the stomach, I guess, cause it’s not cheap and it’s not easy. I always joke if retail was easy, I’d probably, I’ll be out of job by now.

Roy Morejon:
I bet. So let’s talk about your target market and the audience that you guys have been helping over the last 14 years. How has that changed and evolved?

Yohan Jacob:
So we’ve seen a lot more lot, the last few years, we spend a lot more me too brands of commoditized products like iPhone cases and wireless headphones and things like that. And it’s changed when we first started out, a lot of those product were wow, this is a wireless headphones? That’s kind of cool or, oh, well this is a really neat bluetooth speaker, those products have come and gone. Some of the bigger brands have kind of taken over that markets. So retail buyers that we’ve been talking like a Best Buy, right, which we worked a lot with.

Yohan Jacob:
And those other retailers looking for more unique products that have some mass appeal someday, right? They’re looking for product availability, looking for companies that are capitalized that can hold large PO or at least can wait 69 days to get paid. And finally, Roy, I think this is where we see a difference today versus 14 years ago, a lot of buyers are curious on these one hit wonders on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, what’s the product’s roadmap look like in the next 12 to 18 months. It takes a lot of efforts in sip of one skew vendor at Best Buy, as Retailbound has 50 skews or a hundred skews or a thousand skews, right? So Retailbound will be a lot more critical for smaller brands that want to enter their online or in-store platform.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s take a trip even further back now, Yohan, I love going backwards obviously, as you can see so when I set the stage, but in terms of your background, right, you were a strategic buyer at some really big brands back in the day, Sears and OfficeMax, what led you to kind of that aha moment of this was a gap in the world that needed to be created?

Yohan Jacob:
Sure, definitely. So going back even further than that, Roy, I was a manufacturer. So a small manufacturer, I wasn’t a Sony or Samsung where the name opens doors. I worked for a small, $10 million manufacturer in Southern California. And that was very competitive and it’s all before the internet or Google and it was tough to pioneer a product, a company, or even a brand and had the door literally, and fairly shoved my face multiple times, more than I can count. And I probably made a lot of mistakes along the way. I didn’t have a Retailbound kind of guiding me or at least, or doing some of the work. So I wasn’t successful, but often time, effort and money. I always valued someday. Roy, if I became a retail merchant that I would make it easier for small brands when they did reach out to me to help them get ready, right. And when I was a large buyer at Sears and OfficeMax, I bought amount of business every year that now for the smaller brands, unfortunately, Roy I didn’t have the time.

Yohan Jacob:
Now, most of my time was spent with larger brands like HP, Microsoft, Sony, Panasonic, JVC, LG. It’s tough retail bars have a loss on their plate. It’s the only job in corporate retail where it affects every department at corporate. So retail bars work with store planning, importing, AP, IT, there’s a merchandising, all their buying teams, right? So a lot of times it was smaller than theirs. I didn’t have the time to coach them because I would spend most of my time with the bigger brands. So I thought there’s got to be a way. So part of my bucket list was to write a book. What’s to write about? So I actually wrote a book called Retailbound, learn how to sell your products to retailers on Amazon and Barnes and noble and other places you buy your books online. Sold thousands of copies around the world, like, wow, there’s got to be a need. So I convinced my wife, Hey, let me quit my job and start coming from scratch. And yeah, 14 years later and about, no, a little over 4,000 clients serviced, right. We’ve done pretty good there, Roy knock on wood.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what are you most excited about? With that you work on right now, what keeps you up at night?

Yohan Jacob:
Oh, what gets me excited is, I was thinking of something, what gets me excited is that a company that when it was founded two years ago, or three years ago, they’ve got some access on Indiegogo or Amazon, right. They hired us and now they’re placed in retail, right. And be able to see it physically in a store, right. That gets me excited, right. Cause all at planning and all the time spent, right. And now you see it in a store like Best Buy or Costco or even see on air.

Yohan Jacob:
Like we’ve had several clients, who’ve had successful campaigns on QVC on air or ACE on air. So that kind of gets me going and motivated, I know people like yourself like the same thing, you like seeing success of your clients that motivates you to get out of bed every morning. And then that’s same for us, that seeing clients being successful, seeing them happy, that gets me motivated. And that’s why in 14 years, we’ve never been fired as a consultancy, but we replaced more times I can count by new employees. And so, yeah, we were very fortunate in the business we’ve created over the last 14 plus years.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So let’s tie this back in with crowdfunded products just because that’s the majority of our audience and listeners…

Yohan Jacob:
Sure.

Roy Morejon:
Those that need to get up and get out there and launch something. So over the years now that crowdfunding has kind of become a term, at least at this point and a little bit more common place in terms of, especially in the product side, are you seeing those conversations go better more recently in terms of crowdfunded products that are approved, that they can pre-sell a product before it’s ready to ship and deliver, than others that you’ve worked on in the past?

Yohan Jacob:
Yes I have. So I’ll see, when Crowdfund was kind of like infancy back in ’20, or back maybe 5, 6, 7 years ago, when Indiegogo and Kickstarter, a lot of retails like Amazon, when they created the launch pair program or Best Buy, when they created the excite program, ignite program that they’re sourcing brands from Kickstarting to go to be on their platforms. And there were a few hiccups along the way. So merchants today are probably a lot more educated as I would say, than they were maybe five, six years ago on, in regards to Crowdfunded brands.

Yohan Jacob:
I think for Crowdfunded brands where it’s there was, 5 years ago, it still has to sell when it comes to building awareness, in regards to product quality. And also with regarding to something I think a lot of young brands forget, post-sale support. The young brands are so concerned about getting a product placed in retail, they think, oh, it’s perfect now will happen, right. And then all of a sudden they get those angry phone calls or emails, right. That’s when they kind of struggle, I think. But a Crowdfund has definitely come a long way in any retail buyers have got a lot smarter when trying to find and source the right products from the Crowdfunding perspective.

Roy Morejon:
So as someone is approaching, let’s say maybe before their campaign launches, what are some of the things that these startups should be thinking about in terms of going into retail? Or does it make sense to go into retail after they ship and deliver to their crowd?

Yohan Jacob:
Sure. The biggest thing is, I think it’s make sure there’s enough margin dealt, because I think sometimes the Crowdfunded brand, even brands on Amazon, they try to sell at a certain price to generate sales, right, get reviews. The problem is that with Indiegogo Kickstart, even Amazon, there’s only margin. Amazon on South central, or Indiegogo, you’re not buying at a cost of X and sell at a price of Y, right. You’re basically paying a fee or a commission, right, on sales with. Best Buy and other retailers, right, they buy at a cost and it’s still, and they resell for a price little bit higher, right. That’s how they make money I think. A lot of young brands, before they go launch on Kickstart and Indiegogo, or even Amazon, the other thing that they want to get in retail, right.

Yohan Jacob:
That they need to make sure there’s enough margin. So make sure that it’s the right price point, right? That’s able to drive enough sales, for both themselves as well as the retailer, but also generate enough profits as well for the retailer as well for themselves. So a lot of times Roy, when we’re doing price modeling, like, oh my God, Roy, your product is, it’s too low. You can’t make money, right. And it is not for you. You ain’t got to raise your price, right. Or look at [inaudible 00:14:19] just for retail, which might be a different price point, different feature set. So I think for young brands that are looking to get into retail before we launched a Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Amazon, understand pricing, right? It’s about the first thing you want to look at, right? But then you want to look at is the logistics right?

Yohan Jacob:
A lot of retailers today are adopting this drop ship model, where you’re drop shipping from your warehouse or the distributors so that they’re not really carrying stock. So if you don’t have that in place before we work with a retail buyer. And then finalizing is having those support mechanisms from customer support to marketing, right. And our thing’s to really support the retail bar and really drive their sales, cause then a day, Best Buy, all they going to do Roy, for a young brand on Kickstart, Indiegogo is find a platform. Now it’s up to the brand to use that platform the right way to drive sales at Best Buy. Best part of the other time, unfortunately, to work with smaller brands, they’re spending the time with the LGS and Sony’s of the world. So it reviews a small brand on Best Buy all the retailers maximize what retailers are available for it’s paid search, where it’s displays, where it’s PR, to drive sales to a retailer.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. And I think that’s a great point Yohan in terms of the marketing can’t stop. Right? It’s just another opportunity of where to drive consumers based on where they consume products or purchase products and where they feel comfortable.

Yohan Jacob:
Agreed. I think that’s where I think we’re the biggest let down. That’s where, why just coming to trade, when I was a retail buyer, a lot of young brand would try sell me, right? So let’s say I did buy the product after three months or six months, we haven’t seen sales go the way we wanted to go. I asked the manufacturer, what we’re doing? Well, you made a sell Yohan. We sold a you, right, as the old joke. And that’s why you see a lot of young brands, they’re here a day and gone tomorrow. It’s very tough. Retail is changing much faster than when I was a buyer many, many years ago.

Yohan Jacob:
And so it’s up to the manufacturer, right, to figure out what can they do to drive sales, right? It’s not about selling, you have a good product, right? You probably get into a retailer in-store or online. That’s easy part. The hard part, Roy, is figuring out [inaudible 00:16:48] have what internally is what extreme with the retail merchant to drive sales, right? Because you’re not driving sales, you’re not going to last very long with that pickup buyer, right? If not driving sales, you’re probably not going to get an opportunity to expand your shelf space at that retailer. And finally Roy, if you’re not driving sales at the retailer, you’re probably not going to be a long term vendor partner with that particular retailer.

Roy Morejon:
Yohan I mean, you’ve been in this industry for a long time and see kind of where the puck is heading, to use that sports reference. So where do you see retail heading now that there’s kind of been an opening back up of the economy, especially here in the states, in terms of what’s retail look like in three to five years.

Yohan Jacob:
So retail has definitely changed, but it is new, there’s new normally, as we call it. A lot of retailers have to find ways to make it easier for customers to shop. I think retailers have survived and did well last year in 2020, even ’21, really a true army channel strategy. So customers can buy via their mobile phone, via online, via in-store. Some retailers this year have experiment with live streaming, whereas a tic-tac right where I could buy any [inaudible 00:18:09], which retailers use Tik TOK or Instagram that consumers can buy while watching their favorite brand influencer demo the clothes or the product, right?

Yohan Jacob:
So I think for 2022, I think you’ll see a lot more retailers try and make it easier for [inaudible 00:18:27], for example Best Buy, one of the things that kept them afloat in the second half of 2020, as well as creating this buy online and pickup in store or pick up curbside, right? Same for Walmart, they also created this buy online, pick up at curbside, right? So you’ll see a lot more retailers try and find or developing innovative strategies, to get customers to shop or be in-store, online or via mobile.

Roy Morejon:
Amazing. Well, Yohan, this is going to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire some questions at you. You good to go?

Yohan Jacob:
Sure. If fire away my friend.

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

Yohan Jacob:
Helping others be successful.

Roy Morejon:
So if you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to have a coffee with?

Yohan Jacob:
Steve Jobs.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. What would have been your first question for Mr. Jobs?

Yohan Jacob:
Why the computer?

Roy Morejon:
Interesting. Outside of your book, which I will definitely highlight when we publish this, any other book that you would recommend to our startup entrepreneur listeners?

Yohan Jacob:
You know, there’s plenty of great books. The last book I read in this genre was a book called Winning ugly, by Brad Gilbert, it’s actually a tennis book, right. But I use it as some of those business euphemisms, I guess, but it’s called Winning ugly by Brad Gilbert was the last book I read.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Haven’t seen that one yet. Definitely looking forward to that. Thank you for the recommendation. What advice would you give to a new inventor, entrepreneur that’s looking to launch their new product?

Yohan Jacob:
I would say that before you get into, launch your product where it’s online through a Kickstart, Indiegogo, Amazon or retail, right? You want to make sure every duck’s in a row. The last thing you want to do is kind of rush through the process, right? So I would say take your time, there’s no need to skip through, there’s no shortcuts, right? So that’d be the advice I would give Roy is, do it right the first time, don’t do shortcuts because you don’t do it now, it’ll definitely pay on the backside

Roy Morejon:
Measure twice, cut once, right?

Yohan Jacob:
That’s right my friend.

Roy Morejon:
So what would you say are your top three skills that you think every entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Yohan Jacob:
I think the first one is being self-motivated, right? No one’s going to tell you when to get the stuff done, so you got to be self-motivated to get things moving, right. And it’ll follow through. I would say the second thing is being enthusiastic. You can get a lot more nos than yeses, right. Especially if you’re working with retail merchants. So being enthusiastic, being positive. And finally, the last thing I think I always tell my own kids is follow the golden rule, right? Treat people how you want to be treated, right. I [inaudible 00:21:15] times as a retail merchant, but even as a consultant, well we have, were brands, they go their own pace, right. They, I mean, they don’t follow through, right, they don’t get things done right. And like, seriously, it shouldn’t take you six weeks, it should take you three minutes, right. But those are some of the skill sets that I think is being self-motivated, being enthusiastic and being just through on your promises or commitments.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what’s one Crowdfunded product that you use in your daily life?

Yohan Jacob:
I have several in my house honestly. We felt some of hundreds of products. I’m actually excited about a new one that we’ll be getting, hopefully later this week, can we call it Morebots. They raised about $1.9 million on Kickstart recently, about 1600 backers. It’s basically a camera wheels. All of us, many of us have smart cameras in our homes for businesses. Honestly, we’ve had about three or four clients. This is basically a camera that can, like a smart robot that can, back in robot. This one will basically on command or a certain event, will actually go around your house and see, Hey, where’s Junior, what’s the dog doing, right. Patrolling areas you can’t get under. And then go back to its base station and recharge. I’m really excited and try out that product.

Yohan Jacob:
But the last product that we’ve used, I guess, large ones by a company called Cujo. They launched in 2017, 2015, the world’s first home firewall device. They sold over 5,000 units on the first day of Indiegogo. We got them into certain retailers, like Best Buy and Staples and so forth. Today, now five years later, they’ve licensed our IP to various providers like Comcast or Charter and there are about in 60 million homes worldwide. So to answer your question, I think Cujo’s probably the one I used every day, but yeah, it’s one of the more successful launches since Kickstart Indiegogo was invented.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So I know I asked you about the future of retail, but now I’ve got to ask you of what does the future of Crowdfunding look like?

Yohan Jacob:
I think the future of, my perspective now that, honestly we work with a lot of [inaudible 00:23:37] like yourself that know this a lot than we do. Being Crowdfunding, you’re going to see a lot more product brands. They’re looking to beta test ideas. In the old days as a merchant or as a matter of fact we would build 500 units and then show a retail buyer and what do you think? I think Crowdfund will continue to be a good beta test platform for brands that don’t know if this is the right product to push onto consumers or to retail. I think also Crowdfunding will continue to be a great SEO, SEM for brands who want to build awareness. Some of our clients don’t need the money, but they love Kickstart and Indiegogo to build awareness of their product. And it helps because retail bar’s always looking for the newest and greatest. So I think Crowdfund will continue to evolve like retail well, and like you, I’m excited, I look forward to the other possibilities, I guess.

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

Yohan Jacob:
Well, again, I think, if you’re a young brand, you don’t have the time or the experience of getting to retail, and hopefully we’re one of the first places you reached out to. We’ve helped a lot of young brands be successful and hopefully you’ll replace us with a full-time employee. Like we always say, we help turn something out of nothing. So hopefully we get an opportunity to work with you in the near future.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well audience, thank you again for tuning in make sure to visit art of the kickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to Yohan’s book and everything else we talked about today. And of course I got to thank our Crowdfunding podcast sponsors at the Gadget flow and Producthype. Mr. Yohan, Thank you sir, for joining us today on art of the kickstart.

Yohan Jacob:
Anytime Roy, have a great day, my friend.

Roy Morejon:
Cheers, sir. 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 art of the kickstart.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.