In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Ben Knepler and Nelson Warley, co-founders of True Places, creators of the modern, portable folding chair. Perfect for life just outside your door, True Places Folding Chair is lightweight and built to last with remarkable comfort and thoughtful features. Listen in and learn about the brand’s product development journey and their road to Kickstarter.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

    • The inspiration behind True Places and the founders’ background together at a consumer products company
    • The instrumental moments in their market research that lead to the redesign of the outdoor chair
    • Why it was a challenge creating a portable folding chair with the comfort of a patio chair
    • How they determined Enventys Partners as the crowdfunding marketing agency to work with
    • The importance of launching a product with available add-ons and the vertical True Places sees themselves in
    • Why True Places was named after a Moby Dick quote

    Links

    Sponsors

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    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.
    Roy Morejon:
    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. 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 culturey 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 talking with Ben Knepler and Nelson Warley co-founders of True Places. So these guys have created an amazing, beautiful folding chair that allows you to actually enjoy the outdoors in a more modern way. So really excited Ben, Nelson, thank you guys for joining me on the show today.
    Ben Knepler:
    Thanks for having us Roy.
    Nelson Warley:
    Yeah, thank you.
    Roy Morejon:
    So I don’t think the outdoor chair has been revolutionized ever. It’s just filled with flimsy cheap products that are out there. So I’m very inspired to understand what the inspiration behind this was to create True Places?
    Nelson Warley:
    Yeah, that’s pretty good. We had a similar take as you we were spending… Ben and I both recognized we were spending so much time outdoors not necessarily the great outdoors but what you just talked about, sort of all of those moments just outside your door and we were sitting for hours and we were sitting for hours in cheap supportable chairs that aren’t very comfortable, weren’t designed for modern day and so we thought we could do it better.
    Roy Morejon:
    So what’s your backgrounds on this, where did you guys come from to have the inspiration to bring a new product to market?
    Ben Knepler:
    We worked together years ago actually at a big consumer products company. I was only there for a few years, Nelson was there for almost 15 years and we worked together in the innovation [inaudible 00:02:30] there and we were involved with launching brands and products in the context of large companies and so we have some background in kind of…
    Ben Knepler:
    Not in the technical details of product development but in thinking about markets and consumers and understanding consumers and thinking about its opportunities and so I think at least for me just having a bit of that background gave me a little bit confidence in taking what in any cases that is a huge leap.
    Ben Knepler:
    But we’ve been thinking about this for probably a few years on our own and when we realized that we were both thinking about similar things, we started talking more seriously about it and a little over a year ago, went into some more extensive consumer research and realized we weren’t the only ones thinking this and it was a bit of an aha! Moment looking at each other and saying, “You know what? Maybe we could actually do something here.”
    Roy Morejon:
    How did that research start right, I know a lot of the entrepreneurs we talk to and just that are wanting to get started. For the research phase of these things, what did you guys do to look and see that there was a viability or an opportunity out there to reinvent the outdoor chair?
    Nelson Warley:
    Yeah, I think then to Ben’s point that’s where some of our experience came in. I mean, we’re pretty comfortable on the research side of things. I think we started…We Thought these opportunities were meaningful to others, they’re certainly meaningful to us.
    Nelson Warley:
    So we tapped into friends of friends to talk with them, we wanted to learn about how they spend their time and what they’re feeling in these moments. We also did a lot of use case research, so we spent a lot of time on the sidelines or a favorite of Ben and I’s is there’s a beer garden here in Philadelphia where they have a lot of outdoor furniture where you can just go and hang out. So we did that a number of times, so we observed and talk to a lot of people to try to understand really what the pain points, what the problems were in these moments.
    Roy Morejon:
    So you figured out the pain points and then you start designing around that. So talk a little bit about some of the features that you guys have included in this chair in terms of the ergonomics, the design, the carriability, the sophistication of the sustainable materials that you guys have put into it, a ton of thought has gone into this, it is just not an average chair. So talk about some of that and some of those challenges that you guys encountered when designing the product?
    Ben Knepler:
    It’s a great question. Coming out of the research, we had a huge list of things that people wanted or things that people needed or pain points and one of the big challenges was figuring out, out of that huge list, which ones the really meaningful for people and which ones are nice to have and fun for ourselves. So we did a lot more research beyond that as well, we did some online surveys and trying to understand if people had to choose between some of this stuff, what was most important to them.
    Ben Knepler:
    And when we started working with an amazing industrial designer who’s based in New York but he’s originally from the Netherlands and has just a great kind of eye and an aesthetic for kind of modern furniture, we started working pretty closely with him understanding what was possible. It was clear from our research that comfort is clearly the number one thing with a chair and it’s probably the area where there’s been the least amount of innovation in the last decades really.
    Ben Knepler:
    A lot of outdoor chairs to an extent that they’re very portable tend to sacrifice the comfort and anything that’s really comfortable tends to be essentially a patio chair that you can’t really take with you. And so our biggest challenge that we worked with our Industrial Designer on was how do you get a much better balance of comfort and portability?
    Ben Knepler:
    So how do you get the portability of a traditional camping chair together with the comfort that you might find in a patio chair and turns out it’s actually not trivial, there may be a reason that this hasn’t been done over decades, that is from an engineering perspective is quite challenging to do but what we eventually got to was a way to create tension in the seat so that the chair actually stays tall when you sit on it, which is just so much more comfortable than sagging down into a chair but in a way that also folds up.
    Ben Knepler:
    So we have a patent building design that enables us to combine those two things. So that was clearly the number one, it was also clear that there were other pain points around the carrying bag was definitely a big one that it’s been a bit of a race to the bottom over the past couple of decades in this whole category of just making things as cheaply as possible at the expense of any kind of quality.
    Ben Knepler:
    So we’ve upgraded the carrying bag to enable people to carry it over the shoulder or messenger style and actually come up through them, so you can carry probably two chairs backpack [inaudible 00:08:22]. We added a bunch of other features that we realized were important to people as well, whether that’s a [inaudible 00:08:27] move from the right side, so there’s lots of openers under each arm.
    Ben Knepler:
    It’s definitely kind of our personal favorite feature, as well as hooks on the back to put the carrying bag. One of the things I noticed was people really struggle with the bags, the regular Tess and once they’ve got it out of the bag, I have no idea what to do with the bags. So it seemed like a pretty obvious solution to create some way to put that.
    Ben Knepler:
    So there’s a variety of different features along those lines. And then when it comes to the materials and [inaudible 00:09:05] use kind of the highest quality materials that we could. So we’re using a lightweight minium that it’s durable and really strong but it’s also very, very lightweight for the carrying bag we’re using recycled polyester. So it’s made of recycled plastic bottles and just having a little bit more responsible on the side, also important for us.
    Roy Morejon:
    Absolutely. I absolutely love the fact that you can clip these two bags together and carry them like a backpack. I… I’ve fallen prey to the cheaper bag or chairs out there and carrying them as an absolute nuisance, especially when you’ve got multiple chairs for the kids and all of that. So truly love the overall design and inspiration of the option to connect both of these bags together and carry them much more efficiently. So Nelson, you were talking a little bit about getting some feedback early on from friends and family at the Beer Garden. Should you go there more often talking about that feedback, how did you guys end up compiling all of that and then weighing what features to include in the product when it launches and then what ones potentially to add on in terms of additional skews or options for the chairs?
    Nelson Warley:
    Yeah, that’s a really good question and the… It’s one that we continue to ask ourselves as we think about additional accessories and a sort of future products. It’s a lot of process, I think if you do it enough times and talking with people that are really passionate about these moments that are really engaged and really want to… The people you talk to that an hour goes by and they can’t stop talking about it.
    Nelson Warley:
    Those are the ones that are really engaged and you find are sort of the bulls-eye target for these. You want to understand what Ben alluded to it but what are the most important benefits to provide them and if you do that enough times you start to get to some patterns. So that really helped us prioritize. Now the question about sort of you… Because we’ve built this… The design this chair in a way that allows you to move the cup holder, there’s a cell phone holder as an additional add on, you can think of other products or other accessories that you can put there.
    Nelson Warley:
    So we are working on or prioritizing what those are, in terms of new products they’re these moments are… These moments are really important to people that it’s what they want to do when they’re not working and so I think it is both chair products. So we have one size chair you can think about other sizes or for other use cases but there’s also a host of other things that people are taking with in these moments.
    Nelson Warley:
    Don’t necessarily match the quality of the experience and for us, that’s an important part of the brand that we’re creating is how do we create more modern… Modern design but with the quality that they come to expect in these moments and so it’s a pretty high bar and so we’re certainly not rushing into the next product. I think we want similar to this… While we first have to get this product off the ground but similar to the process here, we want to really seek to understand from people what they’re looking for and how we can best delight them.
    Roy Morejon:
    Absolutely. So the Kickstarter campaign will launch tomorrow but obviously when this airs it’ll already be active, so don’t worry audience we’ll make sure to link to it and everything so you can check it out but let’s jump into a little bit of the preparation work in terms of… From the marketing standpoint and the storytelling standpoint of reaching the Kickstarter community and the early adopter audience that’s out there. Talk a little bit about some of that prep work that you guys have done working on the launch of this campaign?
    Ben Knepler:
    Yeah. I mean, this is really one of the launch of product, it’s the launch of our brand, it’s the first one of our first big step into the market. So we’re kind of starting from scratch. We’re really excited about tapping into the Kickstarter have community. I mean, it’s an incredible community where a… They’re excited about innovation and new ideas, so speaking to that group is an incredible opportunity at the beginning, they’re also willing to help get something started and want to help make something happen, which is obviously really important for us at the beginning.
    Ben Knepler:
    And then thirdly they also understand that there’s a lot of work behind the scenes to make a product happen and bring it to market and they understand that they might not be getting it for a number of months and they’re okay with that.
    Ben Knepler:
    So it’s an incredible opportunity for us and we’re really excited about kind of engaging that community, we did in preparation do a small amount of testing online trying to understand what messages and what images are going to resonate the most and trying to build up a little bit of buzz before we officially launch and so that we can get off to a good start. And then in this sort of pre-launch campaign or phase and just before we’ve been launching we’ve tried to start establishing a little bit of a presence on social media that we have a great video, great campaign page and all of those types of things.
    Roy Morejon:
    Wonderful. So you’ve been working with us over here at Enventys Partners for a while now on preparing this launch, what were some of those considerations that you guys went through in terms of choosing an agency to launch your baby with?
    Nelson Warley:
    That’s a great question and one that given our backgrounds in marketing and brand we’ve worked with a lot of agencies over the 15 plus years and so for us it started with… we did a lot of due diligence and interviewed a lot of people, I think really what sparked us with Enventys was a real feeling of a partnership, that this is…I’ve been alluded to it this is our baby and so we ara… We want to make sure that this brand and this product, we give it the best possible shot at success and so having a partner that sort of understood the positioning, what we were trying to do with the product and then could sort of partner and bring an area of expertise that you bring not just in marketing but in specifically in Crowdfunding because we’re new to this to be able to partner with you has been great. So we’ve really enjoyed that it’s been collaborative and insightful and so we’re really excited about tomorrow and seeing what happens.
    Roy Morejon:
    Absolutely. I know the team over here is really excited about the launch as well, as well as getting their hands on this product because it’s just beautifully engineered. So I’m excited to hear what potential future products are you guys planning on rolling out or if you guys don’t want to drop any hints to anyone that’s fine too but I definitely see a lot of additional skews or vertical integrations into this product line really opening up the art force for you?
    Ben Knepler:
    Yeah. I mean, now Nelson, photo a little bit before, we’re obviously right now focused on trying to get the folding chair off the ground and with the help of the community where we’re hoping we’re going to be able to do that but as we take a step back and think about the future of the company and if the brand it’s… I think really important to us that we’re not only a folding chair company that we’re trying to be relevant for these…Fitting occasions in people’s lives just outside that door, that we feel like there aren’t many brands really speaking to in a meaningful way.
    Ben Knepler:
    So when you think about those occasions and those moments, you can think about a range of different things that people take with them and use to enjoy those moments with family and friends. And so we’ve got we’ve got a bunch of different ideas about what that could mean. There are some kind of obvious ones that linked closely to the chair but maybe even beyond that as well.
    Roy Morejon:
    Beautiful. Tell me what the reason behind the name True Places, how’d you guys come up with that?
    Nelson Warley:
    Yeah, that Was actually… That Was… It was one of those great moments as a founder. I think we’ve only been at this a little over a year now but we can sort of reflect and talk about that moment where we both saw… We had diverged a bit on in terms of the name, we knew the positioning that we wanted but we had sort of looked at different territories of names and one of the names on our list was from a quote from Herman Melville from Moby Dick, which is one of my favorite books and the quote is it’s not down in any map, true places never are and when we saw the quote and we saw the name it was really a perfect sort of encapsulation of what we wanted to try to do and we wanted to try to do with this brand, which is we all have those places. And so our job is certainly not to tell you what that place is, it’s for you to sort of celebrate it and enjoy those moments and so True Places is really born out of that idea.
    Roy Morejon:
    Beautiful. Well I know people are going to be really excited to see this campaign when it goes live. Well this is going to get us into our launch round. Ben, you drew the short stick, so you’re ready to get started?
    Ben Knepler:
    Let’s do it.
    Roy Morejon:
    All right. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
    Ben Knepler:
    That’s a interesting question. I didn’t grow up with any idea about becoming an entrepreneur, I didn’t have any kind of role models in a family or friends who are really doing anything like that. I think for me, it was… It’s been a much more kind of recent thing but the kind of barriers to starting something now have really changed in the… From maybe 15 or 20 years ago and I think the point in my life where it’s a little bit of a cliche but you just realize how short life is and I’ve been thinking about it for a while and it was time to jump in.
    Roy Morejon:
    Nice. So if you could let’s say sit by a fire outdoor fire in your True Places, chair with any entrepreneur throughout history who would it be?
    Ben Knepler:
    I think as a… Someone originally from the UK I’d probably have to say Richard Branson is probably the most well-known English entrepreneur just kind of inspirational and done so many things in his life and in business that really kind of a model for so many people.
    Roy Morejon:
    What would have been your first question for search Richard?
    Ben Knepler:
    I think I’d want to get his opinion on how he knows when to kind of drop something and when to keep going with it? I think this is a question that comes up a lot is just start playing around with new ideas. There’s a lot of talk about kind of piss distance and the important of that importance of that but there’s also this idea of kind of, when do you know that something’s not going to work and how quickly can you kind of move on from that? And people use the word pivot nowadays but sort of change the plan. I’d love to know how he thinks about kind of balancing those two things.
    Roy Morejon:
    Yeah. He certainly doesn’t have a fear of failure or learning in terms of moving on and creating the next great thing. What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
    Ben Knepler:
    I grew up playing soccer or footballers as I called it in England. So that’s still kind of a huge passion of mine, if I can do that anytime I can, I love to do that.
    Roy Morejon:
    Beautiful. What book would you recommend to our listeners?
    Ben Knepler:
    Oh there are so many, I think one of my recent favorites is collied. It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for a little bit of a cheesy title. It’s by another Roy Spence who’s a big advertising guy and it’s really about the idea of starting a company or building a company with real purpose. And by that, he really means why does it… But he gets the idea well the difference between just a product and a brand that is kind of really important to myself and Nelson. So I’d probably recommend that to start with
    Roy Morejon:
    Beautiful. Yeah we had another guest on recently, Adrian Solgaard with his company, how they’ve built an entire company around sustainability and their products. So it’s great to see, so looking forward to picking that book up as well. Last question and I know the campaign hasn’t launched yet but now that you guys have given… Gotten your BA’S and pre-launch Crowdfunding Marketing, if you will and product design, what does the future of Crowdfunding look like to you?
    Ben Knepler:
    Well, I think it’s only going to get bigger. We know from our experience over the… Even just the past few months, a lot of friends and family on really that aware of Kickstarter beforehand and once we tell them about it, they get super excited and I could see some of them becoming kind of huge evangelists of Kickstarter and I think while it’s well known, I think there’s kind of a way to go in terms of just bringing more and more people into, almost into that tent. So we could see it really growing where this is the plan that we’ve really done in the thing in the Crowdfunding world and we know that it’s come a long way since the maybe 10 years or when it first really got going and I could see a similar amount of change in the next 10 years as well.
    Roy Morejon:
    Absolutely. Well this has been amazing gentlemen Nelson, this is your turn, give the audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check you out.
    Nelson Warley:
    All right It looks like I still got the short straw too, so I’ll Take it. I think all of these moments that are just outside your door that we’ve talked about going to the park to a game, just hanging out with friends and family in your house or apartment. These are the moments that matter and that you connect with people and so it… You’re set… You’re oftentimes in these occasions sitting and you’re sitting for hours. And so we wanted to give you a more comfortable experience in doing that and so we teamed up with a great group of designers and engineers and we designed what we hope you will love, which is a folding chair that uses this faulty technology to create this ultra comfy seat. And so you don’t have this pinching, you don’t have the sagging into the chair but it also folds really compactly.
    Nelson Warley:
    So it’s… You can carry it anywhere you want to go, it’s lightweight and portable in that sense. So check us out on Kickstarter starting tomorrow or I guess when this airs, it will already be live but check us out. And if you want a remarkably comfortable chair, consider us please.
    Roy Morejon:
    Wonderful audience. Thanks again for tuning in make sure to visit art of the kickstart.com for the notes, the transcript links to the books and the campaign and everything else we talked about today. And of course thank you to our Crowdfunding Podcast, Sponsors the Gadget Flow and Product Type Ben and Nelson. Thank you so much for joining us today on art of the kickstart.
    Nelson Warley:
    Thanks so much Roy.
    Ben Knepler:
    Thank you Roy.
    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 art of the kickstart.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 a lot, leave us a review@artofthekickstart.com slash iTunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs and startups find this 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 Enventys partners.com. Thanks again for tuning in and we’ll see you again next week.