In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Tomer Soran, the founder of Sable Flow and creator of the Secret Whiteboard. Sable Flow focuses on building a balanced life with an emphasis on productivity and creativity. Their most recent Kickstarter campaign, Secret Whiteboard, exemplifies this. Secret Whiteboard is a hanging art frame that opens with a hinge to reveal a large, double-sided magnetic whiteboard, making any space multifunctional. ​It is designed to help switch between, and separate, work and home life. Learn how Soran’s personal experience through working from home during the pandemic helped spark the idea for Secret Whiteboard.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Lessons Soran has learned from his campaign on Kickstarter
  • How Secret Whiteboard improved Soran’s life during the pandemic
  • Specifics of Secret Whiteboard’s two-year-long developmental process
  • How Soran’s company set themselves up for pre-launch success and exceeded their funding goal in the first 48 hours

Links

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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 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.

Roy Morejon:
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 Productype, a 300,000 member a crowdfunding media site and newsletter that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over a thousand top tier projects since 2017. Check out productype.co to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another episode of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am super excited because I am speaking with the founder of Sable Flow and the creator of the Secret Whiteboard, Mr. Tomer Soran. Tomer, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Tomer Soran:
Thank you for having me, Roy. It’s a pleasure being here and been working with your team.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, I am super excited about this product because for one, I’m a whiteboard guy. I am very visual. I need to see everything, but if you look in my office right now, there’s just stuff everywhere from Post-it notes to drawings to posters to ideas and all of these things. I think your product solves a lot of my needs because I love artwork as well. I’m married to an artist. So I think this blends well, just specifically for me, I feel like you made it for me, but I know there’s hundreds of other people that have backed this campaign with over $150,000 now raised on the Kickstarter campaign a little more than two weeks to go as we’re recording this. So let’s talk to our audience a little bit about where does this all start and what inspired you to create the Secret Whiteboard?

Tomer Soran:
Sure. So for those of you listening, to describe the product, the Secret Whiteboard is a large poster frame and a wooden frame. So you can put any art that you’d like. It’s got a hinge on the side that lets it open up, and inside is a recessed whiteboard. That means that you can do your work, write your tax, whatever ever you want, and then close it up for the end of the day. I’m saying recessed because it actually is pushed in a little bit so you can place magnets, papers, magnetic markers, whatever you want inside.

Tomer Soran:
So that’s the product, it’s the Secret Whiteboard. Basically, I created it because I needed to. I was working in my small apartment at my kitchen table, as many entrepreneurs are and as many people were forced to do during the pandemic, either fully or partially working from home. I had so many things on my mind and so many little projects and tasks that I knew I needed a whiteboard to put my ideas and thoughts onto, but with that small space, I hated the way that it looked and kind of completely took over my room, which was my living room, dining room, et cetera.

Tomer Soran:
So as someone who likes to host and cares about the aesthetics of my place, it became pretty obvious that I wanted to hide it. So I started working on that project about two years ago, actually in 2019 before the pandemic. Then luckily, those prototypes kind of saved me during the pandemic, but it also gave me a place to focus my attention to create this project to launch.

Roy Morejon:
Tomer, if you would, let’s jump back in history and talk a little bit about your background and what led you up to this.

Tomer Soran:
Sure. So I actually started as a structural engineer in New York City. So I was designing skyscrapers there. As fun and interesting as that was and sounds, it did not give me enough flexibility with my schedule, and to me, enough ability to leverage my time for being able to multiply it. As an entrepreneur, I saw that as the next step for me. I have always been someone who creates things and draws and develops products and ideas. I love compounding things and the idea that you can create something that then multiplies your efforts. So I’m a big fan of systems, et cetera.

Tomer Soran:
From that engineering world, while I was still working, I created an Amazon store and that is still a working business. It’s called Jump Boost. Basically, that is a wholesale store that sells other people’s inventory and helps them with their marketing, helps people launch their products there. So having been in the e-commerce space for a while now, that’s about six, seven years old, I knew that I wanted to have my own brand, somewhere that I could really focus my attention and develop a community around.

Tomer Soran:
So very quickly after having this issue solved by the product that I created, I knew that it would need to be my next foray. That’s one of the things that I love about the brand that we’ve created, Sable Flow, is that the Secret Whiteboard is a flagship product. It is a place that is recognizable and an item that is immediately usable by so many different people for so many different reasons, but it also gives us a step in the door to create a whole series of products for the home office space and the home decor space and to build a fun community around it.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So you mentioned in your crowdfunding video that it took over two years to develop this. What was that process like? How did you go about deciding what features to include in the initial designs and then how did that change over the years?

Tomer Soran:
Certainly. So the initial product was obviously a rough prototype, but something that I think most people could maybe stick together in their living room if they have the right tools, et cetera. But very quickly, I realized that I needed something that I could interchange the art, because what it was was a more permanent art piece. I wanted to make it as accessible to everyone and fit as many different features as possible in one package.

Tomer Soran:
So I went and had my prototype analyzed by a local CAD company in Austin and then had that converted into drawings. Then I started my sourcing journey, speaking to a sourcing agent, which is one of the things that I would highly recommend to anybody who is jumping into this world is to not necessarily do it all yourself there, especially with us who we’re working with people in China, it tends to be a lot slower if you’re just doing it yourself because of the delay in time mainly. So every day you’re waiting for a response, you’re sending one and back and forth. So having someone there who’s vetting different manufacturers and has your interests and scope in mind is super useful.

Tomer Soran:
So after we created a few of our prototypes, we went through a manufacturer and did not like what came out of it and that happened twice. So we are now on our third manufacturer and they have proven themselves and we’re very happy about it. But originally, it was just a flat whiteboard and we were playing on having both a double whiteboard style where you open the frame and inside are two flat whiteboards, and having another one that was going to be whiteboard on one side and bolt and recessed board on the other.

Tomer Soran:
We realized, well, what if we just made both of them recessed and made it magnetic so that it literally still fits that same purpose, but instead of having to make double the types of SKUs, et cetera and gambling on that, instead, we can everything that everybody wants in one package and that’s where we are today.

Roy Morejon:
You dropped a couple amazing nuggets in there, Tomer. I just want to reiterate that to the listeners that are out there and all the founders that are struggling. Because I think these are a couple big things that folks struggle with. One, potentially language and timeline in terms of having a local sourcing agent potentially on the ground that can move things a lot quicker.

Roy Morejon:
Then two, not sticking with the manufacturer if they’re just not getting it right. You’re on your third one now, finally they understand it, but you didn’t stick with it and try and figure that out because for whatever reasons they just weren’t getting it or getting it right for you. I think that’s really important for all the entrepreneurs that are out there to just not take all that pain and try and force your way through it. There are other people out there that can do it better, faster, cheaper as needed going forward for them.

Tomer Soran:
Sure. I would say another interesting lesson that might just be inherent in the way that I think, but has been proven helpful is do not take no for an answer. I don’t mean that in be bullish and aggressive, but I mean, when you hear a no, ask why. When they give you the answer, ask why again. Because generally, the reason that someone says no is the reason that they’re giving you because it tends to be a cause somewhere down the line and then you go, “Well, what if we just fix this?”

Tomer Soran:
They’re like, “Well, we can’t actually apply this to this surface because we just can’t do it here like that.” I’m like, “Okay, well if somebody else did it and we gave it to you, would you be fine?” They’re like, “Yeah.” “Oh, okay, great. Then we’ve solved the problem.” Generally, a lot of times manufacturers will not always have the creative solutions to things. So understanding where their limitations are when they have an issue is allows you to use your entrepreneurial creativity and other resources to solve the problem for them and to be a true partner so that you can succeed overall.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Sound advice there. So let’s jump into the crowdfunding side of things. So we’ve got the active Kickstarter campaign going on right now. What ultimately made you decide that Kickstarter was the right approach in terms of launching this innovation and not doing something that you’re more with regarding like an Amazon launch, for instance?

Tomer Soran:
Sure. The main two reasons were community and financing. For us, we knew that we did not want to just launch a product. We’re here for the long haul and want to build a community around this brand. So having a place where people became invested in our story, in our brand so that they can grow with us and they can have direct input is priceless to us. We also knew that by generating all the assets that we needed to for the Kickstarter campaign, we would be well on our way once we do switch over to our e-commerce platforms and retail platforms, et cetera, to have a leg up and be already quite further ahead than we would normally.

Tomer Soran:
So the things invested like the video and the photography and any graphics, et cetera, all get used there in the future. Additionally, I knew that if I had the option and I was about to spend X amount on marketing and manufacturing that was somewhat of a gamble, I would prefer to spend it on marketing and prove the concept in a deeper way than just a few test sales, but to prove that people were really into this, and instead they can provide us the revenue that we need to put in our first order a also to clarify the colors and sizes that people really want. What we think is the truth and our assumptions on what people want is often not necessarily the case. We’re always generally too close to the project to see clearly and that’s one of the main reasons is to get that data and information.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. We have seen that so many times, that we certainly are way too close to it. This campaign obviously has proved that there’s a massive market for it, hitting the funding goal and exceeding it within the first 48 hours. Let’s talk about how successful that prelaunch was in terms of the months leading up to that launch. What did you do to put yourself in such a good position to get it fully funded?

Tomer Soran:
So I would say, ironically, we kind of did not do as much prelaunch as I would’ve liked to do. Partially, that’s because I set us a deadline to launch before the holiday season. That was mainly to avoid the let’s say distraction that all the holiday spend and holidays have, right? So instead of competing with every toy manufacturer and everybody else around this later part of November, I pushed hard that we need to launch as early in October as possible.

Tomer Soran:
So that was an intentional choice, but gave us a very hard clock to come up against. One of our biggest issues was we were waiting for a round of samples, excuse me, to do all our content from which we needed in order to do our prelaunch because nobody knows what this is, unless they can see it and understand it. So we needed that one and that was my limitation. The biggest thing I would recommend to people is push on things earlier as much as possible, get your samples in hand, because we had our samples with our supplier there and they would send us photos, et cetera, and we’d say, “Okay, great, edit this, edit that. Okay, good.”

Tomer Soran:
We had a sample around that was good enough for photo and video while they were working on the updates that we knew that we needed, a better whiteboard surface so that it improves erasing that they’ve fixed, certain magnet edits, things like that that would have a big impact on usability, but not necessarily on the visuals that we would use. We only had about three weeks maybe of prelaunch and it did not do a significant amount. Really, we pushed hard on getting as much ground swell as possible locally. So within our individual communities and launching to a pretty aggressive Facebook ad campaign and creating a decent list. Your team at Enventys did a great job of building that initial list with the limited time that we had.

Tomer Soran:
But I also focused a lot on getting as many people in my network to go and took kind of this big swing on something where I knew I could only do this once, which was I literally took every email from my contact list from my personal and my business email address that I’ve ever corresponded with, filtered it a bit to get rid of certain things, but introduced everyone there to the campaign right at the beginning. That’s a hail Mary that you can really only do once in your career without being inappropriate or bugging people. I knew that this was the big hail Mary that I needed. So that’s one big place to that we pushed.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Well, it certainly looks like it’s worked out well and obviously the continued success of dozens and dozens of backers coming in every day and finding this awesome innovation. So you had mentioned that you’d been working with us for a while here at Enventys Partners. What were some of those considerations that you were looking at when choosing an agency to partner with to launch your innovation?

Tomer Soran:
Sure. That would be mainly experience with larger campaigns. I was not going to be satisfied with a campaign that only had a cap at a couple hundred K if that was the limit that other people had done. I wanted to see a campaign that was possible to reach seven figures, if it was. We are probably not going to reach that, but I wanted to at least have the potential to do so. A lot of times, people who have not done so before have limiting beliefs and that tends to be the biggest stop gap for progress.

Tomer Soran:
Additionally, I would say a lot of the… We interviewed several different agencies, a lot of it was the questions that you guys asked and the professionalism that your team presented. I think it’s important to know when you are interviewing whether it’s an agency, whether it’s accountants or lawyers or anybody, the biggest thing that you want to start getting is that sort of, excuse my language, but the bullshit meter to see where people are just trying to sell you and were they’re actually asking you important questions that you didn’t think to ask. That is where I think most of the value came from is asking those questions that we didn’t know because the biggest thing you don’t know is what you don’t know and that’s where we found value.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what’s been the biggest thing that you’ve learned through the whole process of launching on Kickstarter?

Tomer Soran:
I would would say speed and having a team to respond to things. So when I say speed, I would say that most things take longer than you think when it comes to the creative. So our video process, we wrote our script for I’d say two weeks and then we filmed for a week and then the actual editing took a lot longer than we expected and felt like it was really coming down to the wire. A lot of times I would say focus on sewing your seeds and pushing early and figuring out where the limitations will be, who is going to be the person who slows things down, where is that going to be.

Tomer Soran:
If you can try to anticipate it a little bit, that’s great. But likely, you will not be able to. So just starting is the best move because you will hit those walls like a bowling ball rolling down the lane with the guardrails up. You don’t know that they’re there until you bounce into it and then you bounce to the next one and bounce to the next one, then you suddenly hit a strike if you do it right. I would say speed is probably the biggest one. I think I may have mentioned another thing that I have already spaced on at this point.

Roy Morejon:
Well, no worries. Well, speaking of speed, Tomer, this is going to to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. You good to go?

Tomer Soran:
Yeah. Hey man, I’m excited to see what happens.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s do this. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Tomer Soran:
I would say that the freedom of working for myself and being able to leverage time and efforts for compounded capital.

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

Tomer Soran:
That’s a good one. I would say probably Henry Ford. I think it’s fascinating to see somebody take something and create an industry.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. So what would’ve been your first question for Mr. Ford?

Tomer Soran:
I think that one of the things that he and his people did well was hiring. I would say, what is the only thing that matters about the person you are hiring? Because that is what I’ve realized the biggest thing right now it’s as often as heard, it’s not what but who will solve something.

Roy Morejon:
Indeed. So what’s a book that you would recommend to our startup listeners and entrepreneurs?

Tomer Soran:
Sure. There’s a more recent book called $100 Million Offers by Alex Hormozi that has fantastic language and very easy to follow concepts about creating something that is a stupid-proof offer. Basically making something so good that people are dumb not to take it. That’s on us to create those things and to figure out what they are and also to have the right product and market fit.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Great book. Just finished it on the flight back to Charlotte. Awesome read. Hopefully I’ll get Alex on the show here quickly. Tomer, what are the top three skills that you think every entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Tomer Soran:
Problem solving in that form that I said about not taking no for an answer. Trying to find the why is one. The other one I would say is a lack of ego. I would say that that refers to not being too egotistical that you have to do everything yourself, that’s one form of it and being able to relinquish control, but then also not being so egotistical that you’re too entitled to do work. By doing so saying sometimes you just got to buckle in and knock something out instead of being frustrated that somebody isn’t doing it right or that you don’t have the right person. Things just have to get done when they have to get done.

Tomer Soran:
The last one I would say is optimism. This is a journey that takes time and it’s going to be miserable if you’re not looking on the bright side and enjoying the process. We don’t go to a concert just to hear the final chord. You go to hear the entire journey of it and it’s fun when they talk to the audience too.

Roy Morejon:
Definitely. So speaking of misery, what’s one invention that’s made your life easier during the pandemic?

Tomer Soran:
Well, not to toot our own horn, but the Secret Whiteboard actually did help a lot. Being able to have my work in a space that I can actually close off and transition between a work and a home environment, physically turning it off similar to closing your laptop and that all of a sudden my space looks more organized and pretty and pleasant to be around, that has helped my mental state a lot, which I think besides the physical requirements that have hurt everyone on during the pandemic, I think the mental elements of it have been obviously noted, but less focused on. I think it’s a big deal to be able to transition to a home state and actually spend time with your family or yourself, whoever you want to be with.

Roy Morejon:
Couldn’t agree more. All right. Last question. In the launch run, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Tomer Soran:
I think that with the big shifts in technology and I’m referring to both AI and blockchain improvements. I think that the future of crowdfunding will be on blockchain elements. I think NFTs are often looked at as, oh, some silly GIF that people are selling for crazy money and whatever. I think the smart contract is not being utilized as much as it could be. Gary V. talks a lot about these elements. I think if you consider that you are technically able to sell a smart contract to someone and they could essentially buy shares in your launch and then that they have a direct incentive to promote it because the more they do, the more value that file or asset has.

Tomer Soran:
In the future, in 10 years, if they sell that, it’s worth more and then they get a revenue from that, but also us as creators of the campaign would get a cut of it because it’s a smart contract. So if it’s sold, maybe we get 1% of it. This is something that I have been looking into for our brand to create a followup sequence where our Kickstarter backers and others would have the opportunity to join us in an exclusive group through that so that everyone’s incentives are aligned. But I think that’s the biggest thing that needs to be focused on is how can we align our incentives with that of our fan base, of our audience, of our community.

Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. Yeah. I’m looking forward to that. Well, Tomer, this is the end of the interview, but 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 out Secret Whiteboard.

Tomer Soran:
Sure. If you’re working from home partially, or if you have someone who you know needs a whiteboard, but they’ve been holding off because they are ugly, they take over a space and they like art on their walls, check out the Secret Whiteboard on Kickstarter. Just search Secret Whiteboard and you’ll find it. Please back us today. We have a few days left depending on when this comes out. But we’re excited to share with you and we’re excited to hear from you. So Secret Whiteboard, you can also find us at at sableflow.com. It’ll redirect you exactly where you need to go.

Roy Morejon:
Amazing. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign, books, everything else we talked about today. Of course, I got to thank our crowdfunding podcast sponsors at the Gadget Flow and Productype. Tomer, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Tomer Soran:
It’s a pleasure, Roy. Thank you.

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.